Author: Mark Ackerman, Regional Director, MESAT & EE, ServiceNow
For online retailers and consumer services companies, delivering a great customer experience is a matter of survival. Companies such as Amazon, eBay, Airbnb, and Uber spend untold millions, so customers can find exactly what they want—and order it in seconds. These companies have also invested heavily in automated back-end processes, delivering high-quality products and services both quickly and economically. This has driven a consumer service revolution.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for internal company processes. Most workers don’t find their enterprise services as easy to use as consumer services. They also complain about long waits for deliveries, and they say that manual processes lower their productivity and prevent them from focusing on more important work. This is unlike the consumer world where they can switch to a competing site when they’re dissatisfied—at work they have little recourse. If they don’t like working with the HR department, there’s no alternative.
Yet, many of these workplace services deliver the equivalent of consumer services. In principle, there is no difference between opening a purchase order and buying a concert ticket online—except that enterprise services are still delivered using decades-old technology and unstructured processes.
Closing the Gap
If your company wants its enterprise services to be more like consumer services, you need to transform the way you deliver those enterprise services. Simply putting a list of services on a webpage is not enough—your company can only reap the benefits by truly digitizing work and replicating the consumer experience. Target all of your company’s manual, ad hoc services that are driven by email and other unstructured tools, and replace them with automated, efficient, and repeatable processes and platforms.
As soon as you automate your workplace services, you will begin to see the consumer services gap diminish. IT teams and shared services teams can take the lead on this effort. By working with the line of business, these teams can identify the company’s key—but informal, manual, and email-based—workplace services and automate them.
Service portals provide a single, consistent way for users to access the services they need. Using a web interface or mobile app, you can find and order the products and services you want, check out with the click of a button, find out when your order will arrive, get support, and even chat with an online agent. If you’ve ever made a purchase on Amazon, you’ve used a service portal. Service portals dramatically simplify the frontend user experience, making online consumer services fast and easy to use.
Modern enterprise self-service portals deliver a similarly ‘consumerized’ experience by giving your internal users one consistent way to work with IT, HR, finance, and other groups that provide enterprise services. Think of an enterprise service portal as your company’s own internal storefront. Similar to consumer service portals, users can see all of the products and services they can request, search for products using keywords, compare different products, receive product recommendations, personalize products according to their needs (like business cards), fill their shopping baskets, place and track their orders, and get online support when they need it.
Workflows automate back-end fulfilment processes—like processing orders, getting approvals, sending status updates, etc.—to make them efficient, repeatable, and reliable. Workflow automation closes the gap between consumer and enterprise services by driving structured processes and by providing visibility at every stage of service request fulfilment. Service fulfillers can offer fast, committed delivery times, and users can see their request status at any point. This precisely parallels the consumer service experience.
For example, when onboarding an employee, the workflow platform automatically alerts the security department to issue a new badge, the IT team to issue a new laptop and the finance department to issue a new credit card and then tracks whether the activities are completed. If there is any delay, the workflow platform automatically escalates the activity to resolve the reason for the delay. Workflow platforms also handle approvals and send regular status updates to the requesting managers.
Knowledge bases and collaboration tools
Enterprise knowledge bases and collaboration tools empower employees. With a knowledge base, employees can share information by creating, editing, and viewing knowledge articles on a wealth of information from HR policies to solutions for common IT issues. By creating a comprehensive knowledge base, companies give employees instant access to the information they need, which simplifies their lives and reduces the time they spend on help requests. Collaboration tools complement this by allowing employees to work together to answer unique questions or resolve complex issues.
Today, enterprises still rely mainly on manual, ad hoc methods to deliver workplace services. They depend heavily on unstructured emails, phone calls, and even personal visits to request and fulfil these services, creating a major drag on organizational efficiency. Compared to consumer services, enterprise services are far behind—they are much more difficult to request, and they take much longer to deliver.
To change this experience and to prosper in the digital economy, companies need to digitize their work processes, so they become as easy and fast as consumer services like Amazon and Uber. By offering a consumer-like front-end experience and by automating their back-end fulfilment processes, companies can radically improve productivity and create an agile, efficient organization that responds effectively to the needs of external and internal customers.