How consumer services are influencing service expectations in the workplace

Today, more than ever before, consumers have a world of choice at their fingertips and keen desires to engage with the brands that make their time-poor lives more convenient and hassle-free. The internet, coupled with the pervasive nature of smartphones and tablets, continues to pave the way for the ‘constantly connected’ consumer.

Companies that deliver consumer services themselves have had to evolve quickly in order to compete effectively and grab consumer mindshare, resulting in brands like Amazon, Uber and JustEat leading the way in creating intuitive, online platforms that deliver simple, well-designed user services.

Choosing, purchasing, tracking and receiving a product or service has become a seamless experience for consumers. So why shouldn’t they expect the same type of seamless service from their workplace?

Everyone is a consumer – including employees

There is a substantial gap between the streamlined services delivered to consumers and those available at work, as revealed in research commissioned by ServiceNow, with popular consumer services ranking 103 per cent better than workplace services. Everyday tasks such as opening a purchase order, requesting help from another department, ordering equipment, or tracking down information leave a lot to be desired when you think about the superfluous processes employees experience when ordering a pair of shoes from Amazon or a ride from Uber.

While there is still room for improvement, consumer services have the richest customer-facing experiences when compared to typical workplace services.

A big problem is how these services are delivered. Research shows that in more than a third of organisations across Europe the majority of employees are still using manual services, which is causing a huge over-reliance on email. As many as 53 per cent of managers use email to request simple workplace services and this dependency on email is four times higher than in the consumer world. It’s one of the key areas where the gap between consumer and workplace services seems particularly obvious.

Yet, this gap is even more pronounced when we look at mobiles. As consumers, we are ever-more reliant on our mobile devices and requesting goods or services quickly and easily on the go. But the same cannot be said of workplace services. Despite a sharp increase in the number of organisations embracing flexible – and mobile - working practices, only 5 per cent of employees use a mobile app to request services at work, compared to over a quarter of consumers.

The fact is that while companies are trying to accommodate the modern employee, the majority simply do not have the systems and processes in place to optimise the productivity of a mobile workforce.

Using outdated technologies in the workplace is draining productivity at an unprecedented level, with 72 per cent of managers conceding that manual services leave them with less time to focus on strategic initiatives. There is no doubt that laborious, time-intensive processes are a major drag on the enterprise, but what can be done to ensure that managers are fully equipped to drive their business both operationally and strategically?

Closing the gap

There are many options available to organisations to help them diminish the gap between workplace and consumer services and, in turn, cultivate a motivated and productive workforce. By streamlining the way that professional services are delivered they can emulate the success of modern consumer-led service delivery.

The work environment has evolved and fewer employees are glued to screens at their desks; in fact, many choose to work on the move using their personal devices. Today’s technological advancements mean that not being ‘physically’ present no longer results in a bottleneck for simple, day-to-day requests. Organisations can streamline manual processes by making it quick and easy for employees to request services on the web or on the move via mobile.

Automation is another key aspect that businesses should consider. While some employee-facing services are starting to be automated, such as holiday requests, there remains a big opportunity for enterprises to redefine the scope of what’s possible. Back-end systems can be refined with features such as status alerts to notify employees when there is an update on their request. Without these in place, automation still results in counter-productive, manual follow-up. 

It is not uncommon for most employee requests to be similar in their nature, which presents opportunities for organisations. By producing a comprehensive hub of digital content, which can be automatically shared upon request or presented in an employee-facing portal, any member of staff can easily gain access to updates within a matter of seconds, without needing to contact anyone else.   

Streamlining internal processes will only help the overall business

Workplace services also need to compete with consumer services in terms of their design and usability. Modern technology has overtaken email and other legacy approaches, with web portals and mobile apps delivering a far better front-end user experience. This is something that organisations need to take into account and action with the delivery of exceptional, intuitive interfaces that emulate the look and feel of the consumer apps they are used to. The businesses that do so will quickly see a rise in employee satisfaction and efficiency.

While consumers may have the option of switching to a competitive service provider in their personal lives, at work they have very little choice but to leave the organisation. Outdated systems and manual processes are having a worrying impact on the workforce and employers are wasting the true potential of their employees who are spending an average of four hours a day processing unnecessary work emails.

The answer remains in the consumerisation of workplace services. To deliver a real step change, organisations need to adopt fully automated technologies and implement them throughout the business. By delivering a better user experience across all workplace services and accelerating service delivery, enterprises will reap huge benefits, as they will be freeing up skilled and experienced management resources to drive business growth, efficiency and profitability.

Paul Hardy joined ServiceNow in January 2016 as Chief Strategy Office - EMEA. He is regarded as a trusted adviser to CIOs, leadership teams and business executives for service management. At ServiceNow, Paul is responsible for shaping the company’s overall messaging, while also providing input into the future development of the ServiceNow suite of product.