One of my pet peeves. I’m all for automating marketing, making communication timely and precise. My problem is when things get too ‘automated’ and detract from the spirit of the communication.

I travel by Uber, get off and my bill gets settled seamlessly. Pleasure. Now I have to book my next Uber for my return. I’m on the road, in a hurry – and the app doesn’t let me book my next trip unless I rate the driver for the previous trip. And if I give a rating below 3, I have to give a reason for it!! What do I do? Blindly give him a 4 or 5 and move on to booking my next trip. 

Big Basket does this too – however, I’m using Big Basket most often in the comfort of home or office – and therefore this is not as intrusive or irritating.

Questions in my mind – Do I have to rate the driver EVERY TIME? Uber would argue that this is the way driver ratings build up consistently – and that’s a key differentiator for them. Point taken. But – does it have to be mandatory? And – of what value is the rating if I just fill in a number mindlessly to get to my next booking? Is there a better way to do this?

As an aside, I would argue that the times when I would really fill up a rating sincerely is when the experience has either been outstanding or terrible. That’s when I’m most motivated to give my feedback. If that’s true, then for all satisfaction survey ratings, we should really look only at the 1s and the 5s (on a 5 point scale) and see where the drivers/call centre executives/sales reps/stores etc stand. This would probably give a truer picture.

Jet Airways sends out a post-flight email asking you to rate the flight experience. This is non-intrusive – and hence works. However, the problem is that the same email goes out regardless of what the actual flight situation has been. True, when the communication is automated, it is not possible to customise the same to every flight. But take a case when a flight has been delayed 4-5 hours, diverted to another airport, has had the pilot changed as mandated flying hours are over – and the flight finally lands at the original destination 8 hours behind schedule – and the vigil for the passengers has been night long. Should the post flight email in such a case not show some empathy and a change of tone and manner?

Birthday and anniversary emails – another key element of marketing automation calendars. Easiest thing to automate – you know the customer’s birthday or anniversary, schedule a standard wish that goes out on email/sms on the date. It has become such a hygiene factor that today, our mailboxes and sms inboxes are cluttered with messages on our special days. Chances are we don’t recall who has sent what, and we blindly delete the same. How does an organisation stand out from the clutter and get noticed? Is it a question of timing? Send it out a few days BEFORE the birthday to beat the clutter for e.g.? Is it content? Can the message be made slightly more tailor-made for the recipient by reflecting elements of ‘knowing’ him or her from the data we have? Can the format stand out in some innovative way such that it gets opened?

Marketing automation makes sure that communication calendars are streamlined – and key moments of truth are addressed. Very important. It is also important, however, to make sure we don’t lose the spirit of spontaneity and personalisation that the moment demands. How do we arrive at an efficient via-media between the two extremes? Worth thinking about.

In my view, let us evaluate every element in the automated marketing calendar from the lens of 3Ms – Is it MEANINGFUL( to the customer and the Organisation)? Is it MEMORABLE (to the customer)? Is its impact MEASURABLE (to the Organisation)?