Including 3 Steps to Incorporating Automated Messaging That Benefits Both Your Company & Customers

I know what you’re thinking: Automated communications?! No thanks! When I reach out to a brand — or vice versa — I want a real person on the other end, not a rote message or canned response. 

I hear ya, and I agree. From emails and comment sections to website chats and text messages, individual attention from a real representative of a company is almost always preferred. I mean, who doesn’t love the personal touch? 

The thing is, many businesses have neither the time nor the resources to treat customers on an individual basis. It’s an unnecessary burden and impractical option for the majority of companies. And why try when there are solutions out there to take the load off? 

You’ve no doubt experienced automated communications, especially if you do a lot of shopping online. To be clear, automated communications are scheduled, scripted communications automatically sent to interact with and prompt action from existing or prospective customers after certain triggers are activated. They typically involved special software and tools used to schedule, create, and automatically send messages via email, texts, social media, or other channels.

Some examples of this are a welcome email when someone signs up for a newsletter, a text message verifying an order, or a response to a Facebook comment initiating further discussion of a customer service issue through DM. With such a wide range of capabilities, automated communications are quickly becoming a critical piece in the customer engagement puzzle. 

Streamlining the Customer Experience

Today, more than ever, with so many channels to connect with customers both online and offline, optimizing the customer journey is of the utmost importance, and one misstep along the way can result in losing existing customers or failing to land potential ones. Dependable, responsive communication is essential to creating a satisfying customer experience

In this fast-paced world, when website pages are expected to load in under a second or be deemed obsolete, consumers demand immediate or near immediate responses and assistance when engaging with a brand.    

According to Statista, over a third of customers (37%) globally expect a response to their questions or complaints on social media within 24 hours or less, while 28% said within the hour! Meanwhile, in a 2022 survey of global digital shoppers, 80% of respondents wanted to go from inspiration to purchase as quickly as possible, while 58% said they would not shop with a merchant that fails to live up to their expectations, which today are very high when it’s so easy to find a competitor that will. 

To meet such demands, all “touch points” of interaction between your brand and the customer during the research and shopping process have to be as seamless as possible, answering questions in a quick and helpful fashion that also promotes confidence in their purchase. 

Think of automated communications as a valuable tool to guide customers toward actions and move them through the “sales funnel,” whether it’s exploring your brand, checking on an order, buying your product, or addressing issues. When you make the customer journey as easy and positive as can be, you create a pleasant experience that customers will likely try again and even recommend to friends. 

In a 2023 Email Marketing Benchmarks report, the top reason for implementing marketing automation, according to 35% of survey respondents, was streamlining sales and marketing efforts. A close second and third were improving customer engagement and customer experience, both at 34%.

More Time, Energy, & Money to Spend Elsewhere

Most small- and medium-sized businesses typically have a lot more on their plates than responding to every comment, text, or website inquiry. To do so, they’d have to either add to their employees’ workloads or increase their capital in order to find, train, and pay employees for the capacity to handle such tasks. This is where automation comes in handy.

Automated messages take over the more routine time-consuming tasks so your team can spend more of their precious time and energy working on more pressing aspects of your business. Able to trigger both online and offline communications (e.g. direct mail), automation also helps you scale up your communication efforts without sacrificing a “personal touch.” Furthermore, having a uniform, scripted message gives you better control of your communications than you’d have with live human interaction and its inconsistencies. You know exactly what’s being communicated every time. 

Another great benefit is that automated messages tend to have greater open rates, which means more chances to strengthen your relationships with customers. According to that same 2023 GetResponse report, triggered emails saw, on average, much higher open rates (35%) than newsletters sent to the whole email list (26.7%). The most opened type of automated email was the welcome email, with an 86% open rate. 

To Automate or Not to Automate?

The arguments for and against automated communications are reminiscent of the age-old argument of stick-shift vs. automatic automobiles. While those that prefer manual transmissions often cite that it’s a better and more enjoyable experience, those that favor automatics often do because they’re just easier to drive and more convenient. 

Automated communications may not be better than human-to-human ones, but they do offer more convenience and they’re great at handling customers looking for immediate guidance. Just as automatic cars have obviously won the popularity contest as it’s getting increasingly difficult to even purchase stick-shifts anymore, automated communications are becoming more popular throughout the business world. And instead of replacing real conversations and live messaging, they’re complementing them and making more time for the most important ones. 

In a 2023 Statista survey, the most automated channel was email marketing, utilized by 63% of responding marketers. Meanwhile, social media was second with half of respondents saying that they used social media automation. 

3 Steps to Incorporating Automation Into Your Communications

1. Target Key Touch Points

Understanding your target audience and how they prefer to communicate is important when deciding which touch points would be best to automate. In reality, you can’t automate every one; if your customer wishes to talk to an actual person at some point, you have to make that happen, especially since customer service can be such a significant differentiator among brands. 

You also need to determine which kinds of information you communicate most and which make the most sense and are appropriate to automate — whether it’s responding to questions, updating delivery notifications, sending appointment reminders, or welcoming a new subscriber. Then you decide which platforms are the best tools for sending this information. Through automation, you can even uncover connection opportunities you may have not considered or had a chance to capitalize on before. 

2. Set Up Trigger-Based Communications

From email automation to virtual agents, or “chatbots,” which use artificial intelligence to enable two-sided conversations in real time and respond to customer requests, there are a number of options to choose from to suit your needs. Finding the best automation tools requires some research and investigation, and it takes some diligence and know-how when using special software or a platform’s system, not only to set up automation, but to write just the right messages to achieve your desired results. 

Once you’ve determined the touch points you wish to automate, it’s time to craft your messages and schedule them for deployment based on whichever triggers you assign. Customer triggers include everything from placing an order or abandoning a shopping cart to commenting on a social media post or initiating a chatbot conversation. Offering special savings or even birthday wishes, some messages can even be used to re-engage with customers who haven’t responded or interacted with your brand for a certain amount of time.

3. Track & Refine

As with any communications process, you have to monitor it to see how well it’s working and make changes toward continual improvement — whether through specific analytic software or a platform’s own analytics system. 

For instance, you can track email interactions — e.g. open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates, bounce rates — to ensure your messaging is having the impact you desire. Monitoring your automated communications, assessing the data, and measuring progress against key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you determine if the messaging, platforms, timing, and other variables involved are working or if you need to tweak some things for optimal engagement.    

After reading this blog, you may or may not feel that incorporating automated communications into your marketing and communications plans is right for you. If you think it could help take some time and hassle off of your plate yet are still not sure if you and your team has the capability to handle it yourselves, no worries. 

At M:7, we have the expert team and software savvy to determine the best touch points, craft and schedule your messaging, and monitor results to elevate your communications and help you create a better overall customer experience. If you’re ready to go automatic, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today!