Balancing Personalization and Automation in your Workflows

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Back-end business automation can be a touchy subject. One of the most common concerns I hear from my clients about automating a client workflow is that, by doing so, you will lose the personal touch that brought your client to you in the first place.

But it’s not about becoming robotic and repetitive. It’s about automating the pieces that make sense, while still preserving a human element. What may feel robotic or repetitive for you is brand new for your clients. That inquiry response you’re sending ten times a week? Your client will only ever see it once. While canned emails and templates can feel impersonal, the way you use them - and the key processes they work within - actually add up to a better client experience.

Automation does two things. It saves time by cutting down on repetitive tasks and it ensures that every client receives the same high level of service at the right time in the process.

But it all comes down to balance. By holding on to key touch points in your workflow, you will create an experience that is consistent, easy to replicate, and tailored to each client.

So, what does this look like in practice? Let’s break down a basic workflow…

START WITH AUTOMATION

When someone reaches out for the first time, they expect you to respond quickly, and depending on when the inquiry lands in your inbox, that may or may not align with your business hours. This is a place where a bit of automation goes a long way in setting your relationship with that client up for success from day one. 

Use your client management system (like Dubsado or Honeybook) to trigger an email sent almost immediately after you receive an inquiry. In that email, be transparent about the fact that it is automated. Then confirm that you received their message, communicate your typical business hours, and assure them that you’ll get back to them as soon as you can. If you want to take it to the next level, include a link to a super-valuable blog that helps them where they are at this point in the process. 

If your service necessitates a qualifying conversation before moving forward, the next email could prompt them to schedule a discovery call with you using tools like Acuity Scheduling, Calendly, or the Dubsado scheduler. While the scheduling of the call is automated, the connection they make with you on the phone is real.

AUTOMATE YOUR BOOKING PROCESS

The goal when booking a client is to make the process as easy as possible for the client. When your new client is ready to sign on the dotted line, make sure you’re doing everything you can to eliminate friction in the process.

Send your client to one spot to view your pricing, choose a package, digitally sign a contract, and pay their deposit or invoice online. Bundle all the booking steps into one nice, neat, automated package using a program like Dubsado or Honeybook. Their proposal > contract > invoice sequence is seamless and easy for clients, and can be customized to be a continuation of the experience they already had on your website. 

PERSONALLY ONBOARD EACH CLIENT

Depending on your business model, this could vary, but I recommend starting with a templated onboarding process that you can customize quickly and easily for each new client based on their business and requirements as it relates to your work together. 

I’ll give you some insight into my own process. Starting with a “welcome” email, intake form, and internal onboarding checklist, I’m able to easily customize the pieces so that they’re super-relevant and personal to each client’s unique situation, but since these templates are part of my pre-set workflow, they only take a few minutes to tweak. The resulting deliverable shows my clients a high level of care and gets the relationship off to a great start (without me having to reinvent the wheel every time).

No matter how you handle onboarding, be sure you’re clearly communicating expectations up front. Honesty and transparency are the building blocks to a successful partnership, so spell it all out for them. 

Be sure to include:

  • Your business hours

  • Your preferred method of communication

  • Any upcoming out of office time that will affect their project

  • When, and how often, they can expect to hear from you

  • Major milestones in the process

  • Important dates and deadlines (both for you and for them)

Ultimately, it’s your job to lead your client through the process. While your craft is your area of expertise, this could be the first time your client has been through a process like this, and it’s likely that they don’t know how it is supposed to flow (or how you want it to flow!). Rather than leaving the details up to interpretation, guide them step-by-step to the ideal outcome and everyone will be better for it at the end. 

AUTOMATE REGULAR CHECK-INS

While you’re busy working away, your client may start to wonder what’s happening behind the scenes. And depending on the type of business you have, there may be periods of time when they don't hear from you regularly.

Take for example the wedding industry. Photographers may book clients 6, 12, or more months before the wedding date and naturally, there may be periods of downtime in the process. To assure your clients that they’re not far from your mind and that your attention is on their big day, schedule an email (or series of emails) to be sent at intentional points in the process where they need to consider something (like the benefits of an unplugged ceremony), make a critical decision (like whether or not to do a first look). Again, it’s your job to guide the client and help them make the best decisions for their day, and these automated emails can help you do that, on autopilot. 

This will look different for someone like a designer. Instead, this may look like pre-scheduling regular meeting times or check-in points so that your client knows when they’ll have your undivided attention to ask questions or give feedback. And again, a tool like Acuity Scheduling, Calendly, or the Dubsado scheduler can help simplify this process for you, while helping your client feel at ease (and not overlooked) throughout your entire partnership or project.

PERSONALLY OFFBOARD EACH CLIENT

Often overlooked, the offboarding process is the last experience your client will have with you when your working relationship ends. It’s crucial to capitalize on this last interaction so that your partnership ends on a high note, making your client more likely to refer you to their friends. 

Start with a standard offboarding checklist (to make sure you’re dotting all your i’s) and a solid email template. Then, personalize it. Include a summary of the deliverables and the results you achieved together. Take time to reflect on the work completed and convey your appreciation. If you plan to keep in touch, mention it! If you’d appreciate a referral or introduction to a business friend who might need your help, ask for it!

As the potential last interaction with your client, take the extra time to make sure your communication and process is personal and indicative of your working relationship.

If you need help creating a workflow that serves your clients well without a lot of manual effort from you - let’s talk! My Workflow in a Week program could be the perfect fit for you. Learn more, here.

Annie McCarty