2018 – Year In Review

We’re well into the start of 2019 now, so time for another year in review post!

A few years ago I received an email from a company with a Year in Review post. So I decided to start my own tradition of writing a year in review post.

This is now my 3rd year in review post. Today I’m summarising how 2018 went for us here at Automation Agency.

Feel free to read back over previous year in reviews and other company updates if you’d like to better understand our evolution.

I’ve broken this post down into 3 main sections:

  1. Highlights – Things of interest and/or moments we’re proud of!
  2. Challenges – The challenges we faced and lessons learned during 2018.
  3. Future – What we’re focusing on as we look ahead for 2019.

If you’re a client who’s been with us for a while (some of you from the very beginning), THANK YOU!!
It is an honour to be working with you for such a long time.

If you’ve recently joined Automation Agency, thank you for trusting us.
I’m excited to have the opportunity to help you grow in 2019.

If you aren’t yet a client of our services… enjoy this behind-the-scenes snapshot of 2018 🙂
I hope 2019 is the year you decide to leverage our services to move faster and get your time back.

Is Automation Agency right for you? Take this quick quiz to find out!

Highlights & Interesting Facts

Introduction of Alvin our AI Bot

2018 saw us introduce Alvin the AssistBot to the world.

Alvin is now a core part of many aspects of our business:

  • Our screening process for potential clients to see if we are the right fit for them.
  • Our dispatching process ensuring tasks are assigned to the correct team with 92% accuracy.
  • Keeping clients informed about key events. Like when a task has been Queued due to being at the active task limit. Or notifying you when a Queued task becomes Active.
  • Alvin also helps out along the way with helpful suggestions and tips to get the most out of our services.

It was a fun project and helped us understand the possibilities of what AI and bots can do. Not just for businesses like ours but potentially in the future for you too.

Expanding of Kickstart Kits

In 2017 we launched our first Kickstart Kit product for helping business owners who needed to build a Membership Site for their Course or Mastermind.

In 2018 we expanded our Kickstart Kit projects.

Introducing the Authority Site Kickstart for business owners who need to build a new website designed to position them as an authority in their market place.

We haven’t pushed our marketing on this very hard yet. So don’t be shocked if you hadn’t heard of it.

The client feedback from those who have taken it up so far though has been awesome! 🙂

If you want to enquire about getting us to build you a new website, feel free to reach out.

Speaking at ActiveCampaign Conference in Chicago

I was invited to Chicago by ActiveCampaign to attend and speak at their first ever user conference.

This was a highlight for a number of reasons, first who doesn’t like a free trip to Chicago, and second hanging with the team at ActiveCampaign and being able to discuss ideas for improvement with their higher level execs was super valuable for me and our clients.

I’ve always had a good relationship with ActiveCampaign but this trip strengthened it further, and I really respect and admire what Jason VandeBoom (their CEO) has built in terms of culture and scale as well as the software itself.

I also got some great insights into how to improve our partner programs from my discussions with the countless other ActiveCampaign consultants who I met who were keen to leverage our services to implement what they do for their clients.

4th Annual Team Conference

2018 was our 4th Annual conference with the team where we get everyone together face to face. The team has grown and changed a lot over the past 4 years.

This year we changed up our location and structure and it worked really well. Allowing for a stronger bond with the team as well as more powerful lessons on the areas we needed to improve.

 

Improvements to Client Satisfaction

Every single task we do for a client they have the ability to rate us as either Awesome, Just Ok, or Not Good.

In 2017 our scores were 91% Awesome, 7% Just Ok and 1% Not Good (I don’t know where the other 1% went)

This past year I’m proud to see we’ve been able to move some of those Just Ok votes into Awesome votes 🎉.

I don’t think I’ll ever see a less than 1% Not Good because we can’t always please everyone and since we’re human we unfortunately do make mistakes at times.

And since sometimes people pick it when they don’t know what else to pick so it’s not always a reflection of our skills or customer service, like for example when we tell them we can’t do what they want because it’s out of our scope. (see below)

 

All in all, those are some of the highlights I am most proud of for 2018.

Although what I’m most proud of is the fact we have clients to continue to stay with us year in and year out, choosing to work with us to help them build their dreams and businesses.

Challenges

Phasing Out Our European Team

When you service businesses around the world from US, UK, Australia, Europe, Asia etc… covering as many hours as possible is important.

The problem is having someone working at 2am in the morning (their time) is not healthy for them long term, and far more likely to cause sloppy mistakes to occur for the client.

So I always saw having people on night shift as a Lose, Lose, Lose situation.

Our solution was to build teams in different countries so it’s not 2am in the morning for them.

And in 2016 & 2017 we built, and trained a small team in Serbia to cover our UK client hours as an experiment.

This past year of 2018 however saw us phase out the Serbian team, and scale it back to focus just on our Philippines team only.

There were a number of reasons it didn’t work out for us to have this Serbian team.

The biggest though was cultural cohesion. Trying to mesh the Philippines culture, Australian culture and Serbian culture became less easy and friction increased the more new team members we introduced in Serbia.

Nothing against the team members personally, it just made keeping a tight company culture difficult.

And a tight company culture is crucial to creating a great client experience!

It also created logistical and financial issues for Annual Conferences, essentially doubling costs by having us run multiple annual conferences per team or flying people across the world to attend.

So we’ve focused back on solely the Philippines, we haven’t rolled out any 2am shifts (sorry US clients), but we do still cover our UK hours and we also created an early morning 5am shift to extend our services into a few more of the US working hours.

Handover between shifts is working much more seamlessly now which has made a big difference to quality and client experience.

And while we still haven’t found an answer to covering the remaining 5 hour gap between UK shift and our early morning shift it’s something we continue to discuss and keep in the forefront of our minds.

Improved Quality created Slower Resolutions

Over the last 17.5 years of business I’ve learned that one of the most crucial things is to be consistent in what you deliver. Either be consistently bad or consistently good, don’t fluctuate.

Unfortunately knowing this and doing this has proved harder to deliver on than I thought. Especially when you do so many varying and non standardised tasks across multiple platforms like we do.

Over the course of 2018 we implemented a number of new strategies to improve the consistency of our quality. From our Reviewers who first handle the task requests to ensure we have everything we need, to improvements in our trainings and an internal QA process and much more.

These added complexities to our processes have improved our quality but also impacted the speed in which we complete tasks.

This isn’t necessarily a major challenge as the majority of our clients are happy with the speeds we deliver.

It goes back to the old saying… everyone wants Fast, Cheap and Quality… but you can only pick 2!

In a recent survey the #1 request from clients was to get our PRO plan level speeds but their willingness to pay was at our BUDGET plan speeds.

My personal perfectionist mentality won’t let me drop our quality standards, so it means I constantly battle with deciding if we go for Fast & Quality, or Cheap & Quality.

As we progress through 2019 the team and I have already been putting a lot of attention into efficiency and effectiveness. Evaluating how we can simplify processes to increase speed, without sacrificing quality.

Clients Running Out Of Ideas

Unfortunately this is a challenge that has repeatedly shown up for us. Which means we are going to put a lot of focus in 2019 to try make a bigger dent on this one.

One of the biggest challenges any subscription business faces is churn (the percent of people who cancel).

For a long time we had a very low churn rate, but since 2017 and through 2018 we’ve seen this rate increasing far more than I would like.

There are varying reasons people decide to cancel, the most common reason for cancelation though has been and still is:

“You guys are awesome, I just don’t have anything I need done right now.”

There are many factors that are influencing this.

  1. It seems the way our service is viewed by clients signing up now is different to how earlier clients (especially those still with us) viewed us. Many have a more short term project mindsets rather than a long term partnership mentality.
  2. We still aren’t doing a good enough job at communicating the Pro-Active services we do for clients, so many clients perceive value only in the tasks they request and ignore the rest.
  3. Not all clients are educating themselves or have ideas every other week on things to change or get fixed, so we can do a better job of inspiring and educating these people because there is always more to do to remain relevant in todays digital marketing age.

We did put energy into improving this in 2018, and our recent Popular Tasks Wizards feature was one idea that came out of this effort. There is also a bunch of other enhancements in the pipeline to help you get more value on an ongoing basis. Of course Alvin will come into play here too with his helpful suggestions.

With what we have in store I’m hopeful that 2019’s year in review post will be the year we won’t have this in our challenges list.

The Future

It’s always helpful to look back and see the highlights and lessons (there were many more but you wouldn’t want to read them all).

Here’s what we have in store for you in 2019…

New Features & Platform Enhancements

In 2018 I spent a lot of time focused on coming up with platform enhancements, new features and identifying bugs and issues that need fixing to make using our services more useful for small businesses.

Many of the fruits of this work will be coming out this year as development took a little longer than planned (always does) for some of the bigger features.

I can confirm in 2019 you’ll see…

  • Popular Task Wizards coming out of BETA and going live on all accounts (it’s already enabled for 80% of accounts at time of publishing this)
  • Recurring Tasks for those tasks you need done over and over again without having to explain it every time
  • Multi Account Users this is for our Consultant and Agency partners who work in multiple accounts
  • and a few other surprises 😉

If you have a suggestion of something you’d really like to see, be sure to reach out to us and let us know.

Personally Talking to More Clients

One thing that happens when you build a business to work without you is you get further and further away from the clients and their daily problems and that to me is a problem. If I want to continue to be able to solve your problems I need to fully understand them.

In 2019 my goal is to speak regularly to you personally a lot more so I understand how you’re using us, what about us annoys you, what you love most about our services, and where we can add more value to your lives and what problems we can help eliminate.

So stay tuned for your next chance to chat with me 🙂

Platforms & Scope Review

The marketing world has changed a lot in the last 4 years.

We’ve added new platforms like ManyChat to our supported platforms list to keep up with some of the changes.

However now with more and more platforms coming out every day. It’s becoming harder to decide which platforms we need to support and which ones we don’t.

So in 2019 we’ll be doing an in depth review of the platforms in the market. Determining what should be in and out of scope to ensure we are best positioned to meet online small business owners needs for marketing support in 2019 and beyond.

A Final Word

2018 was an interesting year for me personally as well as for Automation Agency as a company.

I know that 2019 is going to bring with it challenges. Some I’ll expect and others I won’t.

You and I both know that at times we’re going to make mistakes, and upset some people. It’s the nature of the beast.

However with the incredible team we have. Plus the culture and values everyone at Automation Agency holds dear. You can bet with confidence that we’ll continue to learn, grow and improve over the long term.

I’m looking forward to what 2019 brings. I’m also excited to be sharing the fruits of 2018’s labour with you in coming months.

Thank you to everyone who supports us at Automation Agency. It’s a pleasure to serve you and be a part of your world.

If you haven’t yet tried us out, then I encourage you to chat to Alvin our Right Fit Bot to see if we may be a good match for your needs, and if we are consider giving us a try at some point this year 🙂

About The Author

Carl Taylor

Carl Taylor is the Founder & CEO of Automation Agency. For the past 10 years Carl has been building businesses and marketing them online through the use of Sales Funnels, Email Marketing Automation, Landing Pages, and Wordpress Websites. Carl is also a #1 author and highly sought after speaker and consultant whose work has impacted thousands of businesses across various industries worldwide.