I was chatting with an IT Consultant recently, a “one man band” who supported the IT infrastructures of a number of local small businesses. We were discussing how he, like many other IT businesses I’ve spoken to recently, had seen an upswing in enquiries from potential clients.
In fact, the demand for him to meet with potential new clients was so great that he was struggling to balance them against the demands of supporting existing clients.
“And so it’s even more frustrating” he shared with me “when I arrive for client meetings and they’ve forgotten we were scheduled to meet!”.
The frustration of missed appointments
I felt this IT Consultants frustration. Most of us have experienced the frustration of arrived at a client’s site to fix an issue or visit a prospective client for a scheduled meeting, only to be told “Oh, I’d completely forgotten about our meeting”.
How much of your time is wasted in this way?
Interestingly though, when I asked the IT Consultant what he was doing to mitigate against this waste of his time and energy, he told me that “I really should telephone ahead on the day of the meeting to make sure the client remembers, but I’m often too busy to remember to make that call!”
This is a prime example of a system created to solve a problem which then fails because of one crucial factor – the human element.
The human element
For instance, how many clients do you have who use a data backup strategy that requires somebody within their office (usually the receptionist or office manager) to change a USB Hard Disk or a DLT tape each day?
How many times does that backup fail because somebody has neglected to change the USB drive or the tape — especially on a Friday afternoon when their mind is focused on trying to get out of the door and go home for the weekend?
Any process that involves the human element — a requirement for a person to do something — is prone to failure. Why? Because we, as human beings, easily forget things, especially when we are busy or distracted.
[tweet_box design=”default”]Human beings easily forget things. Which of your business processes can you automate today?[/tweet_box]
The answer? Automate these processes to remove the human elements wherever possible
Automating Business Processes
I’d urge you to look for opportunities to automate business processes in both your own, and your clients businesses.
In our backup example above, why not move your clients from a manual process of backing up to USB Hard Drive to an automated on-line backup solution?
Sure, there is a cost involved — but I’d encourage you to consider the cost to your business of remediating backups that have failed due to the human element. Count the minutes (and hours) that you spend on this each month, multiply by the cost of the staff time involved, then compare it the cost of automating the solution. Chances are that you’ll actually be saving money through automation.
In the example of our IT Consultant, he knows he’s losing time and money by not confirming appointments with clients, yet his solution — to call the client on the day of the meeting — is a process that also fails because it involves the human element, and he often fails to make the call himself.
Instead, he could try using an online calendar for bookings that send out reminders via email and SMS. The process of contacting the client on the day of the meeting would be automatic, and would save him wasted time travelling to meetings that should have been cancelled. It’s a step he could take today and start reaping the benefits of immediately.
Automated systems = Trust and Professionalism
These type of automated systems often engender a feeling of trust and professionalism with clients. They actually give you a competitive advantage as well as offering a cost saving.
If you need convincing of this, consider your experience with any courier or delivery business you’ve recently used.
All of us have experiences of waiting in all day for a package that never arrives!
I’m willing to bet the courier companies you are a fan of are the ones who allow you to track where your package is, and then send an SMS or email to your Smartphone when the package is due to be delivered. It allows you to make sure you’re available when the delivery is due, and not spend the rest of your time waiting around the house or the office.
How do you feel about the company that free’s up your time in this way? Chances are, you rate them highly.
Those other couriers who don’t use these automated systems? Even if their service is good, I’m going to guess you don’t view them as favourably as the company who communicates more effectively through automated systems.
Which business processes can you automate today? Which systems or processes do you have in place which could be made more robust by removing the human element and replacing it with a time and money-saving automated system?
[tweet_box design=”default”]The cost savings to be made from automating business systems can often be surprising[/tweet_box]
Calculate the actual cost of the human element in any of your existing systems. Be realistic. Then look at the investment required to automate any of those systems. The cost savings can often be surprising.