What not to automate

We like automation. It’s a great way to help optimise your business processes, help your team feel motivated and satisfied with their work, and provide consistent customer service. But automation is all too easy to misuse. (That is, implemented to automate the wrong things.)

When you don’t use automation correctly, it wastes time and resources, as well as causing both employee and customer confusion. Avoiding this automation misuse means knowing what not to automate as much as what to automate.

So, we’ve put together a list of things you shouldn’t try to automate, and why.


First things first, don’t automate absolutely everything. It may seem tempting at face value — and it’s easy to get carried away with your shiny new automation tool. But automating everything won’t work. You’ll end up wasting time and money automating processes that are either not needed, or that are better handled by humans.

Plus, attempting to automate everything risks losing the human touch and friendly face of your company. When customers can’t get support from a human, and the automation in place isn’t equipped to help them, they’ll inevitably feel alienated.

Long phone trees

No one wants to be stuck in an automated phone call that lasts for all eternity. Slowly making your way through random questions and hold sequences is painful. With long automated phone trees, customers end up growing frustrated with your system. That means a bad experience and low customer satisfaction.

Automating large sections of your telephone support channel suggests a disinterest in customer communication. It wastes their time and makes them feel uncared for or even irritated. So, add long phone trees to your list of what not to automate.

Instead, automation should be used to create a smooth experience for customers. For example, quickly directing customers to the right human agent to handle their problem or query.

Uncommon processes

This links back to not needing to automate everything. When asking yourself what not to automate, it can help to review the process you’re thinking of automating.

Is it something that you need to be doing endlessly — manual data entry, for example? Then automation is a good way to go. Automation is best for common, constant and systematic tasks that follow a standard pattern.

But don’t take it too far. If the process isn’t routine, straightforward or time-sensitive, automating it will likely be overegging the pudding.

Low return-on-investment

You want to spend your time and resources optimising busy processes where automation gives a fair to high ROI. Any processes that would offer no or low ROI if automated go on the list of what not to automate.

This is a good time to think of the three ‘V’s: volume, variance, and value. The ideal tasks to automate are ones that are high volume, have low variance between each transaction, and come at a high resource cost (value) to perform.

Highly complex processes

Automation software is capable of complex processes. It can run workflows with several steps and data touchpoints, using advanced layers of “if’ rules. And it does so accurately and efficiently.

But sometimes during complex processes, you need human intervention and decision-making. If it’s a process that demands significant human attention at many stages, don’t try to automate it all. Instead, automate the smaller, simpler segments.

This is about using automation as a tool to help your human employees increase accuracy and efficiency in completing their most complex tasks. Just don’t attempt to automate the entire process.

What not to automate

The list of what not to automate is decidedly small compared to the list of processes you can (and should) automate. Business process automation can save you vast amounts of time, money and effort – not to mention admin headaches.

There are hundreds of workflows you can create that will make your working life easier. Want to give it a try? Try a 30-day free trial of ThinkAutomation.