[1/2] From Manual to Automatic: Efficiency vs Efficacy

“The real barrier to automating processes is human, not technological.”


As a CRM and business consultant, I love the difficult problems. With one project I was working on, the client’s customer service team was overloaded with incoming phone calls from supporters with queries, detail changes and new regular gifts and donations. This, of course, resulted in long waiting times, lost calls, lost donations and unhappy donors.

I was immediately thinking of all the process changes they could be doing to address this: hiring additional staff, CTI integration, providing the ability for supporters to do all these things online and marketing this new ability to supporters, writing FAQs, etc. etc. As we explored the problem, it became apparent that the problem was compounded by the fact that each time a supporter needed some kind of documentation – new regular gifts, change of address, bank details and so on – the CSR would manually print the document, walk to the printer, pick up the print-out and put it in an envelope before returning to their desk to take the next call.


We showed the manager how they could easily automate the production of the documents within their CRM so that they would fall into a queue to be printed all together overnight ready for posting. This would mean no more manual document production as the system would handle all of these, no more needing to leave the desk and the lost time it takes to get to the printer…. In short, it would reduce the amount of time needed to be spent per supporter by more than 50%, while improving the same level of service to a greater number of customers!


Unfortunately, the manager wasn’t ready to let go and fought the proposed changes citing that the CSRs needed the time away from their desks as a form of break. It’s easy, as an external, objective consultant, to misunderstand this objection and think of it as poor management, but really it is something much more important: a lack of trust of the incoming new system.


Here, then, is the problem: automating clear and logical processes that take up a lot of time are easily systemised – there are workflow system, queues and process automation built within most modern CRM systems, external BPA/BPM platforms and software such as TaskCentre and Zapier fill gaps and further enhance the capabilities of what you can do.


The real barrier to automating processes is human, not technological.


I was recently at the IoF Technology conference and the Head of ICT from Macmillan presented a session on business requirements-gathering. He raised an interesting but important pet peeve of his: the goal of ‘efficiency’ as a result of a new system. It may be a semantic thing, but ‘efficiency’ means doing the same things with less.


In the case of an organisation, this almost always means redundancies and yet when the question “how many people are you hoping to let go?” is asked, there is almost always a, “Oh, no, no we don’t mean to let people go!” response. Again, the barrier to the desired goal is human not technological.


What organisations should be aiming to do by automating their processes within a CRM is to increase efficacy. Do more with the same. A subtle but important difference.


What processes would you like to see automated to allow your team to do more?


Next time, we will share some tips for ‘letting it go’ and making the automation of processes something your teams look forward to rather than fear.

About the author

Ben White is a specialist CRM consultant and owner of Rescue CRM with over 10 years of cross-sector and system experience implementing, fixing, relaunching and replacing CRM and related systems. Ben spent 3 years at Blackbaud in the enterprise team as a consultant and engagement manager implementing Blackbaud CRM and Raiser’s Edge.

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