Automation: Friend or Foe?

As both a medium-sized business and nationwide lender, we sometimes find ourselves choosing between providing service in an automated or personal way. While we have consistently hired competent, hard-working people that make a smaller team possible, it’s occasionally tempting to save time with greater automation. In theory, automation can allow a company to conserve time and resources while limiting human error.  However, we are careful to differentiate between “good” and “bad” automation when it comes to our business.

Good automation includes standardizing and streamlining documentation for faster, more accurate processing.  It also might include putting careful risk-based underwriting rules in place so we can make quick decisions on loans. These forms of automation are the best of both worlds—they allow us to spend less time with fewer errors, and the contractor experiences a quicker, smoother process.

Good automation also allows us to hire fewer people to handle busy-work. Instead, the people hired can focus on more important tasks that are a better use of their talents.

Bad automation has as its poster child the automation of interactions with customers. A common example is automated customer service phone lines. When a contractor calls us, we want them to always speak to an actual person, whether they’re looking for underwriting, sales, or management. Another example might be spamming prospects with emails they neither asked for nor appreciate.

We try to avoid these “unfriendly” forms and automate only when it makes sense to both us and our customer. However, sometimes real-life examples don’t fit so neatly into either box. Recently, we considered if there were any instances where we could save time without losing any of the personal service that contractors expect and appreciate when working with us. For example, we COULD switch to an automated phone service to free up some of our loan analysts’ time talking directly to contractors. Ultimately we agreed that talking to a real decision-maker rather than a computer was a service that we couldn’t afford to lose.

What are some other examples of good or bad automation?

 

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