In this series on learning to walk in the customer’s shoes, we’ve touched on where technology is heading. We talked about how humans and technology are growing closer together, and at some point, technology will be embedded in humans. I don’t know how many years that is away from us, but these things tend to come up rather quickly. Just look at the cell phone-smartphone, which was adopted instantly around the globe, and is now available and being used in every country worldwide.
The next major move, technologically, is in the area of business task automation. In the old days, you had workflow engines that were laid out within a company. Today real automation doesn’t simply exist in a single workflow, but in robust processes optimized by the latest technology. That is why we have created a tool within Pipeliner, Automatizer, that is central to the application—a tool dedicated to eliminating repetitive, and therefore basically worthless, activities in sales.
When I speak of tasks being replaced by automation, I’m not speaking here of tasks performed by healthcare workers who deal with and take care of patients—I don’t believe these will ever be replaced by technology. We’ve not seen any technological progress there at all, and I’m not sure we ever will.
Another area where I don’t believe we’ll see automation taking over anytime soon is with self-driving cars, despite all the promotion to the contrary. Why? Because there is an ethical component to such programming which is going to be nearly impossible to code. The car’s computer would have to make decisions such as: an elderly person steps out into the street right in front of the oncoming self-driving car, and the only way the car could avoid running down this person is to swerve into another vehicle containing a mother and three children.
What decision could possibly be made there, by a computer? Any self-driving car will have to make such decisions based on ethics, well in addition to questions of speed and obeying traffic laws. What kinds of algorithms would be required for that? I’m predicting we won’t see such inventions anytime soon.
In the traditional sense, though, technology has been replacing repetitive tasks throughout history. I remember when I was a young boy in Austria, my mother was still washing diapers in a big pot. When we got our first washing machine, it was truly a momentous event. Then came a dryer! And then came a dishwasher, which really replaced a repetitive task—dishes had to be washed, dried and put away after every meal.
Following the 1950s and 1960s, automation became a status symbol and a symbol of growth. Wherever we saw it, we thought that life was truly getting better and more enjoyable.
Within companies, machine learning and automation are definitely assisting in taking over repetitive processes. But where the rubber really meets the road is in the area of the kinds of triggers you are setting up—specified conditions that lead to triggered actions.
Thanks to ever-increasing technological innovations, we’ve now come to the place where complex workflows can be easily embedded into systems. This is why we’ve created our Automatizer functionality, which takes over many complex repetitive actions within sales.
Of course such functionality allows you to set up processes based on date. For example, let’s say that on Sunday night you wish to retrieve data from different areas of the company and collect it in one place, so you’ll be ready to start work Monday morning. You might want to be reminded of opportunities that should be contacted right away. You also want others in the company to be informed of specific tasks they need to be on top of when they begin work. Such a process could become pretty complex, consisting of creating and sending an email, creating a task for another person, and maybe even sending a package with a thank-you card to someone.
Tasks would not have to be triggered by date, though, but by specific circumstances. It could happen, for example, that when a new opportunity arrives, a set of automatic tasks takes place so that the new prospect will be attended to as rapidly and efficiently as possible.
Any automation of this kind should be assisting salespeople to provide ever-increasing value to the prospect or customer, which of course is the whole point of business.
In Everyday Life
In everyday life, we’ve certainly seen how complex processes can be automated, demonstrated by the person I consider the master of the process, Jess Bezos, and his company Amazon. Right now, we can order something online, and automated processes will provide for the order to be fulfilled and delivered to our door, usually the next day.
Why do we have to go out shopping to buy the same items over and over? That’s certainly a time-consuming repetitive task we could do without. Ask yourself right now: how often do you have to go out to the store to purchase the same kind of product? Just as a small example, you probably—before and after covid19—purchase the same brand of toilet paper, dish soap, and other cleaning products.
We will get to the point that technology will automatically bring these products to our door—and maybe even right into our cupboards, pantries and refrigerators. A sensor in the refrigerator, for example, reads the UPC bar code off of the milk carton when it arrives. You have already programmed into the system how long it takes your family to use up one carton of milk, so by that time that carton is nearly empty, a new one has arrived to replace it. This could happen for all of the items we regularly go shopping for. And one more series of worthless activities will be dispensed with.
The re-ordering of such products could (probably sooner) also come about through web technology, which could be placed on a screen right there on the refrigerator door. Just a short time ago we saw the astronauts who went by SpaceX craft to the International Space Station, utilizing web technology for control of their ship, simply pointing and clicking. Of course, where to “click” is rather complex for astronauts, but for us it’s just as we’ve always done: click, click, click. And perhaps it won’t even be clicking, but voice command.
While the good news is that we’re gradually detaching ourselves from repetitive tasks through automation, we’re also, at the same time, detaching ourselves from having to read. I consider this a negative side effect, because I think after a time fewer and fewer people will be learning to read and write. They won’t have to! In some form, we’ll be heading back to the Stone Age when everything was written down in pictures. We see that right now with apps such as TikTok—everything is in video or pictures.
Our children spend hours upon hours with these apps, instead of reading books. If they can just speak to computers and click on pictures, they no longer need to understand the written word. That’s something I think we should alter the course of right away.
Sales and CRM
This technological boom, though, is going to have a profound effect on sales. Right at Pipeliner, I’ve made it the highest priority to render the Automatizer feature of Pipeliner CRM the best CRM function in the industry—the easiest to use, the simplest to understand, and the easiest to implement. The computer has now taken over as many repetitive tasks as possible, leaving us to do what we do best: sell. And why not? Why should we not rid ourselves of unnecessary tasks when we can?
As a practical example, let’s say you routinely receive leads from your website—people who have been looking over your product and are interested in it. Let’s take it one step further, and say that the lead is forwarded to a particular salesperson, and that a task to contact that lead is created.
Not so far into the future, there will be much more. AI technology will pick up, from around the web and from other databases, more information about this lead. Your salesperson will be forwarded a very full profile of the lead and the contact, even including the contact’s social media. The salesperson will have a complete digital footprint available to them. Sophisticated software could even analyze what kind of person this is, so that the salesperson understands how to talk to them, and how to gear their pitch.
Once the salesperson is ready to speak to the lead, they could simply instruct an application such as Siri or Alexa to get the prospect on the phone. The app calls the prospect, gets them on the line and informs the salesperson that the prospect is ready to speak to them.
I truly believe that’s where we’re headed, and I don’t believe it will be very long. A couple of years ago we weren’t considering what is possible today: I can speak to my phone and have it recognize my voice. I can scan a business card into my phone. When I’m driving my car, it’s informing me of the most efficient route to my destination.
Now let’s eliminate repetitive tasks in sales, and put our time to much better use.