When Automation Goes Too Far

Some of my posts are longer and detailed and show you how to do things, like this recent one on building a membership site. Other posts are shorter – but still useful – like this one about one-click checkouts and my Hollywood debut.

But some, like today's, are short as they're written on the WordPress Mobile App on my way to the airport.

I still want to deliver value, but I also have one and only one point to make and a single thing to point you to.

So that's what I'm doing. And the topic of today's post is on automation.

Automations May Power Your Agency

If you're an agency, you likely have spent years working on your automations. You know you need tools to help you do things, and so it's normal to bring them into your processes and speed everything up.

See if any of this sounds familiar…

You have an automation that sends people an email about project kickoff after they submit their first payment.

But how did they make that payment? You likely sent them an invoice after they signed the contract. That was another (earlier) automation.

That contract they signed? Yes, another automation, right? At your meeting where you reviewed your proposal, you showed them everything. When they said the magic words, “let's do this – send me the contract,” you tagged them in your CRM and out went the contract.

Of course, we can keep going backwards. They showed up to that meeting because you likely sent them an email with a link to a calendar service like SavvyCal, and once they booked an appointment, the meeting was set.

You get where I'm going. Automations are powerful and helpful and there's nothing wrong with them. They can power your agency.

But What Happens If Automations Go Too Far?

I won't talk about you. I'll tell you about me. About the time I went too far. Sound good? Here's my story.

Years ago (1996-ish), we built a web application that would allow people to reserve conference rooms on a large corporate campus (Berkeley Lab). The Lab was using something called Meeting Maker and we thought we could do some things (like food ordering for meetings) a bit better.

So we built in a little web form for you to tell us how many people were attending your event, what resources (A/V) you would need, and what kind of food requests you had.

We then forwarded this to the cafeteria. But we needed them to acknowledge and confirm the order. Right? So we sent them an email (though at the time we seriously considered sending a fax).

What do you do if they don't confirm the receipt?

Obviously, you wait a bit and then send it again. So far so good, right?

What happens when automations go too far? I'll tell you. You have a very uncomfortable meeting with your boss.

I was called into his office to explain why we were inundating the cafeteria with email. See, our automation waited 3 days and sent a reminder / confirmation email. Then it waiting 1 day. Then half a day. Then a quarter of a day. And then every hour of the business day. You get the picture.

Our algorithm was wrong. And our software was annoying in the worst way.

But that's not the only way automations can go too far.

What happens if you send a friend an automated email that they shouldn't get? Imagine you have a set of partners that you really trust and work with all the time. Now imagine getting a call from them and having to answer tough questions…


Because you've automated an outreach campaign (meant for customers) and sent them (a customer AND a partner) an email asking them to introduce themselves to you.

Your automation has just insulted them.

The truth is that automation can go too far because life is filled with nuances and when you don't put those things into your processes, you can end up building routines that are frustrating, ignorant, or annoying.

Here's Something New

I told you I wanted to point you to something new. Here it is. Check out Reflective.

They combine automations with manual workflows so that your nuances aren't lost. I found it a couple weeks ago and haven't had time to write about it until today.

It's the perfect solution for the scenarios I've been writing about. So visit their site and try it for free (free right now) and let me know what you think.