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Email automation failure - how to plan for the unplanned

When automation fails feature image

It has been established for some time now that triggered and automation of emails are invaluable customer communication tools.

When it comes to fully automated lifecycles, the possibilities are really endless. While triggered emails are sent based on a customer interaction, such as a lost password, abandoned shopping cart notifications; automated emails are typically sent on a predefined schedule. Examples include welcome series and payment reminders. Both are powerful tools in customer communication.

However, there is a downside to full automation that needs to be understood. Automation alone doesn’t allow for unpredictability and the ability to respond to changes in real time.

How to plan for automation failure…

Include emergency responses in the customer lifecycle and be ready to distribute them at any time.Include email and mobile phone text (SMS) services in your disaster recovery plan. Have an alternate  ESP if need be.
Be prepared to stop and change automation quickly.Constantly evaluate the content of messages.

A case study in automation failure

The perfect example of this unpredictability was felt a few weeks ago when a major hosting provider experienced some unexpected downtime. What we witnessed was a perfect case study in automation failure.

During the outage (which lasted a number of hours), there were reports on Twitter that some customers had received satisfaction surveys. It’s difficult to put into words what a disaster this could be. Imagine if your entire business is down, you’re losing money by the minute and while still waiting for a resolution, you are asking your customers to rate the service with a smiley or sad face?

You’ll guess from this example that customers didn’t receive a timely email/text message explaining that there was a known issue.

The automation worked perfectly but it was an absolute failure in process. Automation alone is not good enough, business units need to understand the entire lifecycle of communication and be able to edit, change or disable communications in response to any unforeseen event.

This should go as far as being included in incident response and business continuity planning.

Harness the power of instant electronic communication with email and text (SMS) notifications

A simple way (especially if you are in a business where outages can negatively affect plenty of customers) is a short email or text message explaining that there is an issue. It does not even need to include resolutions or ETAs on uptime, it just needs to explain that you know there’s an issue and that you’re on top of it.

Most businesses have this type of need but don’t realize it. Utilities deal with natural disasters and weather causing outages, banks work with Internet banking sites and retailers, online shopping. These are a few examples where a disconnect in services could easily flood a call center.

All digital customer communication channels – email and mobile phone text messages (SMS) – support instant electronic message delivery. By utilizing these different channels, business can target customers immediately, regardless of their location or communication channel preference.

As I’ve mentioned, the world is unpredictable. What may seem like a good campaign today may be extremely insensitive tomorrow, so continually evaluate the message that is being sent and plan for the unplanned.

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Alex Papadopulos

Alex Papadopulos

Head of Operations at Striata, The Americas

Alex Papadopulos is the Head of Operations for Striata America and currently heads up all technical operations for North, Central and South America. He is responsible for all areas of technical and project operations including project management, support, development and project implementation.

Alex began his career with Striata in 2003 as a programmer and has worked extensively within the various operations teams in South Africa before moving to North America as the Technical Team Lead. Prior to moving to the United States, Alex was responsible for managing a team of developers and engineers in his role as Technical Project manager where he managed clients requirements as well as developing a number of proofs of concept. He also completed 18 months in a Systems Analyst position at Clover. Alex has over 10 years of experience in the IT field, primarily focused on electronic billing presentment, billing and supply chain management.

Alex completed his Bachelor of Information Technology in 2001 through Bond University (Australia) at Sandton, South Africa majoring in programming.

Read more of Alex's blog posts here or connect with him on the following social channels: