5 Questions to Ask Before Automating Your CRM

CRM providers have long experimented with automating various aspects of business—from customer data capture to the interactions themselves. But as we’ve seen from many stories of customer service tips and failures, automating certain processes is, in many cases, easier said than done. The outcome of some automation initiatives can be shaky or even detract from sales teams’ performance.

But that doesn’t mean CRM providers should write off automation altogether. As Paul Greenberg said in his latest CRM Watchlist report, “Customers aren't looking for technology—they are looking to technology that will enable their efforts to achieve outcomes that lead to a result they want to get as self-interested individuals.” And there are certain processes that sales teams can automate that do help them achieve real outcomes. 

For those who are looking to automate CRM-related processes within their organizations, here are five questions to ask when considering a new automation technology:

1. Will it save time? 

The ultimate goal of automation is to streamline work and help save our valuable human resources for tasks that require higher-level thinking. Unfortunately, it can be easy to lose sight of that goal when that groundbreaking “cool” new tech enters the picture. The reality is that some automation is more headache than it’s worth.

Take email capture, for example. While capturing the interaction history between your salespeople and prospects is helpful, automatic email capture can be counterproductive if you then have to go through manually and sort them by campaign, add details, or read through a long string of interactions for context. These activities add administrative work instead of adding time that could be better spent building relationships. One of the easiest ways to make sure your investment is worthwhile is to ask: Will this save time? Will it result in a measurable productivity gain?

2. Is the price right? 

Calculating ROI is an important precursor to implementing any new technology. But that calculation can be particularly complex when it comes to automation. You need tolook at the cost of the technology but also consider how it will impact the employees that will be using it, which can be much more difficult to quantify.

For example, will it be a new process employees have to learn, or can they essentially “set it and forget it”? And if there is education involved, what will that cost your organization in terms of money and time? Some automation technologies require manual work that can be complex and disruptive. Are the expected gains from that technology worth your investment in the short and long term? Will it be a tool your employees like to use, or will it make them unhappy—ultimately costing you valuable team members?

3. Is there a benefit to this being done by humans? 

Anti-automation arguments often lead down a slippery slope. The million-dollar question is: Where should automation end and people begin? An easy litmus test is whether the task requires human creativity and intelligence.

Consider traveling salespeople. They prep for a meeting, drive there, give their pitch, drive back, and make notes on the trip and the interaction in their CRM platform and expense software. Which parts require human intelligence? Perhaps some of the prep, the pitch, and some of the interaction notes. But administrative tasks? Automation can help with that: gathering and organizing data to help prep for the meeting, perhaps soon a driverless car to get them there and back, and software that can automatically log aspects of their trip in your CRM system—even taking care of expense reporting for the drive. In some cases, you’re actually better off with automation because it eliminates human error, improving accuracy for these tasks.

4. Is the technology there, and is it sound? 

Pitching your business to Mark Zuckerberg? You probably need a human touch to draft that email. But administrative tasks like finding out what time of day to reach him? Those can easily be relegated to automation. If you find your employees spending a ton of time on administrative work, it’s worth looking to technology to see if it can be automated.

If you do find a software solution, be sure to check for case studies and customer references to validate the technology providers’ claims. With companies jumping quickly on the AI and machine learning bandwagon, getting the word from existing customers to help cut through the noise is more important than ever.

5. How will it impact the customer?  

When it comes to CRM, it almost goes without saying that everything you do should add to the customer experience in some way. Automation is no different. Your investments may directly impact the customer; such as helping you recognize that it’s time to engage with them again; or they may simply improve your back-end processes so that salespeople can devote more of their time to serving customer needs. Either way, keeping the customer at the center is always, always job No. 1.

With more than 20 years of experience managing web and mobile-based software development, Ady Das guides product innovation and technology operations as vice president of product management for Motus. Motus’s sophisticated vehicle management and reimbursement platform can be embedded within CRM systems, streamlining accurate mileage tracking, data entry, and reimbursement for mobile workers and their organizations.

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