Internal Customers During the Mobile Revolution: Spoiled or Neglected?

By Joe Satovich, Web and Mobile Engagement Director on Sep. 9, 2013 View Comments

Internal Customers During the Mobile Revolution: Spoiled or Neglected?

We now live in an era where we can choose to digitally augment and simplify almost any part of our lives. Thanks to Apple, Google, and thousands of consumer app developers, expectations are that information, supported by effortless functionality, should be immediately available on all devices—meaning users have to be able to find it, understand it, use it, and accomplish something with it. Instantly.

Most companies have come to realize the value of meeting these rapidly changing user expectations; for better digital experiences often translate into greater customer acquisition, satisfaction and retention.

But what about the experiences of your internal customers—your employees? Are their user needs being met?

I’m talking about how employees interact with internal systems and tools: how they engage with other departments through request systems, correspond via email and chat, find company documents via an intranet or shared drive, submit timecards, update HR information and numerous other aspects of their day-to-day work.

To gauge employees’ user experiences, organizations need to assess the multiple touch points that they encounter daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. Occurrence frequency is important to consider during user research because employees will mitigate, or simply hide, the negative effects of poor user experiences by getting used to them (sticky-notes, anyone?) or working around them entirely. Less frequent experiences can’t simply be gotten used to, so users will be inclined to introduce alternative methods, use their own apps and devices (which may expose company data), or simply not participate.

Employees will often become disengaged, frustrated, and even rebellious if a poor experience results in lost time or lowers the quality of their work. Further complicating the matter is the fact that it’s more difficult to analyze these effects on internal audiences than on external ones.

So the question is: is there an unwritten set of (lower) standards in place behind the scenes, or do employees deserve to have it all when it comes to user experience?

Some people believe the rapid proliferation of technology and mobile apps has caused employees in the mobile era to be spoiled—accustomed to instant gratification and unwilling to wait—while others view them as sorely neglected and left behind.

I would argue that employees in the mobile era are largely neglected, which in short order will present many risks for companies, including the risk of losing top talent, market share, and ultimately competitive advantage. Most organizations have not focused on providing good user experiences across internal systems because it’s simply too big and costly of a task, one that is not immediately perceived as providing ROI-focused results.

Building the Case for Better Internal Customer Experiences

User experience design has become a make-or-break factor in many industries. A recent survey by Dell unveiled user-centric strategies can have a significant and positive impact on employees—reaping rewards for companies in data management and security, as well as employee productivity and customer satisfaction.

Great UX is being used to lower costs by eliminating redundancy, speeding decisions, and focusing workers on their critical tasks.

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, a 10,000-employee company could save $4M/year simply by improving its intranet. But if cost savings aren’t enough, businesses could focus their use of these new capabilities to empower and engage employees, leading to a reduction in frustration and turnover of top performers which would ultimately affect the external customer experience. McKinsey’s research claims that enterprise social networking can cut nearly 4 hours per week out of each employee’s week.

Celerity’s web and mobile team recently applied a user-centered design approach while working with a global media organization to completely reimagine, redesign and develop a new-age intranet that engages employees through social technologies and self-help features.

Applying the same UX practices to internal systems has the possibility to make employee training, lengthy learning curves, and costly user manuals obsolete.

Think about it: What if an employee could be on-boarded in half the time, because intuitive design eliminated the need to learn and execute the trivial parts of their jobs that don’t meaningfully contribute to their productivity?

What if properly-equipped employees could accomplish a task that is performed 100 times per day/hour/minute/second across an enterprise in 70% of the time?

What if task accuracy was increased by 10%? What if simple tasks could be accomplished in the small gaps of time that pop up during the day?

So what do you think? Are employees in your organization spoiled or neglected?

Mobile App Business Case

Posted in: Web Design & Development, Intranets, UX Design