Gareth Herschel blogged today - Two Stores, Two Contrasting Experiences - about how both the attitude of an employee and the systems at their disposal affect the customer experience. I think his story shows exactly why some of these operational decisions should be automated. In this case the proactive employee was able to get the answer to the decision (can this coupon be used for something that costs less than the value of the coupon) and so give good customer service. If critical operational decisions (coupon use, upgrades, discounts, refunds etc etc) were automated than anyone, employee or contractor live or over the phone could show the same responsiveness. As long as this kind of thing remains manual it won't. This is why I think decision management is key to successful CRM.