Jun 29 2010

Automated Love

Automated Love

Return Path is launching a new mini feature sometime this week to our clients.  Normally I wouldn’t blog about this — I think this is mini enough that we’re probably not even saying much about it publicly at the company.  But it’s an interesting concept that I thought I’d riff on a little bit.

I forget what we’re calling the program officially — probably something like “Client Status Emails” or “Performance Summary Alerts” — but a bunch of us have been calling it by the more colorful term “Automated Love” for a while now.

The art of account management or client services for an on-demand software company is complex and has evolved significantly from the old days of relationship management.  Great account management now means a whole slew of new things, like Being The Subject Matter Expert, and Training the Client.  It’s less about the “hey, how are things going?” phone call and more about driving usage and value for clients.

As web services have taken off, particularly for small businesses or “prosumers,” most have built in this concept of Automated Love.  The weekly email from the service to its user with charts, stats, benchmarks, and links to the web site, occasionally with some content or blog posts.  It’s relatively easy (most of the content is database driven), it reminds customers that you’re there, working on their behalf in the background, it tells them what happened on their account or how they’re doing, it alerts them to current or looming problems, and it drives usage of your service.  As a bonus for you internally, usually the same database queries that produce a good bit of Automated Love can also alert your account management team when a client’s usage pattern of your service changes or stops entirely.

While some businesses with low values of any single customer value can probably get away with having a client service function based ENTIRELY on Automated Love, I think any business with a web service MUST have Automated Love as a component of its client service effort.