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Time to start treating our employees like customers

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In today’s connected marketplace characterised by an increasingly tough economic climate, it is no longer possible for businesses to compete purely on price.
As such, companies are implementing strategies to position themselves in a more positive light, improve their customer service levels and increase brand awareness in order to stand out from the competition, writes Saurabh Kumar, CEO of In2IT Tech.
While this is commendable, it’s easy to forget that creating an exceptional customer experience starts at home, with their employees.
Businesses should be focusing on the ‘internal’ customer experience and making use of collaborative technologies, self-service portals and collectively embracing best practices in the workplace. In this way employees are empowered to engage with their customers in a way that creates the exceptional and memorable experiences that are essential in retaining existing customers and attracting new ones.

Embrace technology to empower employees
The customer’s experience, whether a technology or non-technology company, is undeniably aligned with technology itself as it is driven by the Internet of Things (IoT) and underscored by the phenomenon of mobility.
Driven by social media and mobile technologies, the customer now has multiple ways to connect with businesses and discuss the service received, so employees need to be equipped to deal with these new methods of customer interaction. But how do you drive employees to create “wow” experiences for your customers? It’s time to think like your employees.
Currently we are dealing with a new generation of employees, or ‘millennials’, as society calls them. This generation is tuned more toward a mobile-first approach, rather than desktop-first approach. Whether it’s CRM or ERP software, most of today’s applications are designed desktop-first and this needs to change.
The millennial employee thinks about mobile and mobility first, and other areas second. This means we have to create an accessible and user-friendly support system for our employees. This will enable them to have all of the information and tools necessary to help customers in a meaningful and satisfying way. There are many inefficiencies in today’s workplace that hinder the way they collaborate and perform.
The core areas of the business – finance, HR, resources, customer data – are still, for the most part, separate and operated in isolation. The software and systems used are multi-layered or disparate, and for each activity that needs to be performed, an employee must log in to a different system. This impacts productivity. Here, businesses need to ask: do we have a business intelligence facility? Are we able to track, capture and analyse data so that customer-facing employees have the relevant data when they need it? Is this data immediately accessible in a meaningful way?

Embracing technology to communicate with employees
We’ve moved beyond the days of company-wide emails to disseminate information and gather responses, instead there are now various technology tools that create social media platform for companies to exchange ideas, get solutions and suggestions on that social media platform. Tools like Slack and Yammer can enhance collaboration, without clogging the company email server and employees can connect with colleagues without having to leave their desks.
Given that work is a priority for everyone, it’s time for organisations to consider checks, balances and measures to address personal issues with employees and to make internal work-related administrative tasks easier with Employee Self Service (ESS) platforms. For example, a company could implement a Smart Service Desk which forms a central point of contact for service for any support-related queries or requests. Because this has to be managed and monitored, it becomes more proactive rather than reactive for support staff.
Other ESS measures include automated leave processes, allowing employees to apply for leave, without having to resort to paper trails and be subjected to delays. Time, that employees are not spending on internal tasks, can be spent on customer-facing tasks instead.

Embracing technology to engage with employees
We have reached a point where ignoring the internal customer experience is at an organisation’s own peril. It’s critical for businesses to realise that each time an employee interfaces with a customer, they do so as a representative of the company and each interaction essentially places the company’s reputation at stake.
With technology being so readily available, it’s easy to spread negative perceptions and whether the negative comment comes from a customer or an employee, the impact on reputation is the same. With this in mind, companies have to start thinking about making the best possible internal experience so that employees are equipped to handle customers better.
It’s undeniable that the workplace in the next few years is going to change drastically. Driven by a new generation of technology-focused employees, traditional processes within HR and administration will need to change to address this generation.
Mobility and analytics will take more importance, and business-related intelligence can then be used by employees to deliver memorable customer experiences. This can only start with a solid foundation that comes from internal IT infrastructure and business processes that empower and engage employees.