Until recently, it’s been pretty easy to out-shine an automated service. For many years the technology just wasn’t there, and showing up a slow, clunky piece of machinery wasn’t all that tough. But that’s quickly changing. I mean come on, how do you compete with an ATM that spits out cupcakes (like the one Sprinkles introduced in 2012)?
(Hint: you make better cupcakes.)
Why You Need a Cupcake ATM
Besides the obvious reasons of “because cupcakes,” there are a lot of benefits to having something automated in your business model. The company that pioneered the cupcake ATM didn’t set out to replace themselves or make their own jobs obsolete—they set out to better serve their customers.
Every good baker swears their baked goods are so tasty is because the secret ingredient is love. And in a lot of ways, they’re right. Warm fuzzies keep your clients happy when things get a little rough. But sometimes, our clients don’t want love, they want instant gratification. That’s where automation comes in.
Some customers will wait in two-hour line for a single cupcake because it comes with a kind smile and a chipper, “thank you so much for coming in to see us, have a fabulous day!” But others just want their dang cupcake, hold the cute. They want to get in and get out, and that’s great. Everyone can relate to that. By implementing automation (like a cupcake ATM or a cloud-based platform) you’re opening an alternative avenue to handle your overflow of needy clients. It hasn’t replaced you, it’s given you a way to handle important tasks without depriving other homeowners of the everyday things they need.
Making Better Cupcakes, Baked with Love
Think back to the last time your interaction with a company went completely sideways. I don’t mean that time the pizza place forgot your anchovies. I mean that time when you ordered $500 worth of product, got charged three times, and had it show up a week late in a beat-up container that had clearly been used as a soccer ball at some point. When this happens to me, the feeling that stands out most (besides maybe blind rage) is helplessness.
Homeowners can certainly relate to that. It’s tough having something go so monumentally awry that they're forced to interact, not just with a person, but with their association—because sadly, HOAs are notoriously misunderstood. Homeowners expect to be treated like dirt because of the horror stories they hear from friends, neighbors, and the best source of news: Facebook! A lot of people misunderstand the purpose of the association, and see board members and management professionals as nothing more than goons who want to take their money.
This is why you and your management team are indispensable. The thing technology cannot mimic (yet) is compassion. Personal engagement is what will keep you relevant and worth investing in, because a real person can completely change the perspective of a homeowner who is having a negative experience. If a power surge blows out the streetlights for a whole block of homes, the last thing the homeowners want is a cold, apathetic robot that lacks urgency handling their problem. They need someone who has knows what helplessness feels like. Someone who can sympathize with them and who can relate to their struggle. They need someone to remind them that an association is made up of human beings who have been right where they are and can assure them that everything will be made right.
Chocolate, or Vanilla? Why Not Both?
Much like cupcakes, automation comes in a ton of fun flavors—with none of the empty calories! Nearly every aspect of your business has the potential to be automated, so don’t get hung up on the word “automation.” Sure, it can mean using a machine or algorithm to do a daily task for you, but it can also mean employing software to consolidate your information silos, or using a cloud-based platform to keep your information accessible 24/7/365. It can mean using an automated lockbox instead of manually inputting checks each month, or granting access directly to homeowners for their important account information, or deciding to go paperless. So while you absolutely should adopt automation, be careful that the automation is impactful and worthwhile to your homeowners. Picking too many types of automation that don’t solve a problem, or picking options that don’t work well together, could be just as detrimental as staying manual.
There's no question that automation can improve your business. It’s cost-effective, saves valuable time and effort, and can open a lot of new doors as your company grows or as you expand your portfolio. Software-as-a-Service (or SAAS) has revolutionized the way businesses can interact with their customers: namely, they can spend more time on that interaction. Finding a solution to your time-consuming, tedious work means more time in your day for more work, and more meaningful interactions with your clients. It's those interactions that make you better than a robot, which means that the influx of robots and automation will not be replacing you any time soon.