There’s no ROI in automating stupidity

Very wisely, vendors of CRM and marketing automation have been working to make their products more user-friendly. There are two great reasons for this: one, it means that more employees can gain the productivity power of the technology, and two, in the age of SaaS, the vendor can charge for more seats.

That’s especially true on the marketing side. You don’t want to have a team of marketers at the mercy of one guru who knows how to operate the CRM or marketing automation software. Ideally, you’d have people who knew marketing – not technology – using the systems that run campaigns. That simply makes sense.

However, as we all know, automation does not cure stupidity – it only makes stupidity occur faster. So, if the people in marketing (or sales, or whatever) are not particularly on the ball, or are not sufficiently engaged to care about building customer relationships, technology will enable you to broadcast that fact far and wide.

Here’s a personal example: I’ve been a customer of a large local hobby shop for 25 years. Some of the staff know me by name. I used to visit once a week for supplies and just to see what was new. In short, I was a good customer.

So I had no pause when asked to sign up for their e-mail list. Updates, special offers and perhaps preferred customer status? Sure!

Then the emails began showing up. The good news was that there was a basic attempt at personalization. The bad news was that my emails were addressed to someone name ”Chius.”

Granted, that’s a pretty minor error. But, after 25 years, it feels like we’re starting our customer relationship all over again – with basic stuff, like my name. And, apparently, there’s never been a process set up for correcting this data, so mentioning it in the store gets either a blank stare or, somewhat worse, a reaction that mocks the guy doing marketing. Note to the guys in the store – you all should be part of marketing. Rolling your eyes and saying, “oh, that Bob!” does nothing to help address the problem.

It’s not enough to implement a low-end customer-facing point solution – or any solution, for that matter – if it’s not coupled with a strategy, a set of processes and a genuine desire to use that solution to build relationships. I suspect the goal articulated in this case was to use the system to make more money – and that’s a good end goal. But the route from the technology to its ROI goes directly through the people who use it and the processes they follow – and the relationships they establish. Every time I get an email intended for “Chius” (or “Christophe,” thanks to too-short name fields, or any of the remarkably mangled versions of my last name), I stop and think: are these businesses really interested in me at all? That’s probably not the thought they intend to provoke – and it certainly isn’t helping them achieve a return on their technology investments.