Happy Employees, Happy Customers, Higher Profit: How to Get It All With Proactive IT

The link between employee happiness and business results is clear, according to recent research from the Russell Investment Group, Deloitte and others. Happy employees make for happy customers, leading to higher profitability and stock price.

Summarizing the studies in Forbes, Blake Morgan affirms that happy workers mean higher profits, noting “publicly traded companies in the Fortune ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list have gained an average 10.8% a year since 1998” (versus 6.5% for the DJIA and 5.3% for the S&P 500 over the same period).

How happly employees mean higher profitsShe further observes that “The same companies invest in employee happiness year after year. The rest continue to not invest. There’s a clear line between companies that get it and companies that don’t.”

While numerous factors impact employee happiness, a proactive IT support strategy can play a key role.

The Unhappiness Problem

Despite the link between employee happiness and profits, Morgan paints this picture of life inside many corporate customer contact centers:

“Imagine you are a contact center agent. You are stuffed into an office with a ton of other people. You’re given access to a phone and some old CRM software. You’re hungry and you need fresh air. Your manager doesn’t say thank you. No one asks how you’re doing (ever). The workplace negativity coupled with customer complaints is just too much to bear. You hate going to work. And you are supposed to be the face of your company to the customer. That is one unhappy face. That is one unhappy customer.”

Ouch.

But it’s not only call center workers who impact customer happiness, or even just customer-facing staff. Virtually any employee, from the person in accounting who processes customer statements to the loading dock worker who packs and ships orders to the executives in charge of decisions about product/service features, price and availability, can impact customer happiness.

And as Morgan also points out, social media empowers customers to broadcast their brand experiences—good or bad—widely and immediately.

What makes employees happy?

Employee happiness is of course a product of a wide range of factors, from work environment and compensation to workplace technology and management quality. And the relative importance of various factors often differs somewhat based on each employee’s personality and life situation.

But what’s clear, as Morgan writes, is that “Creating a happier work environment starts with a company that is willing to listen to what employees want and value.” And that, sadly, is far too uncommon. In nearly 80% of companies that administer employee engagement surveys, managers either never reviewed the results or read the results but took no action.

It’s not hard to spot these situations, according to Morgan: “We can tell everything we need to know about C-suite priorities by looking at the customer experience—one that ultimately stems from the employee experience .”

The Role of IT Strategy in Employee Experience

As with employee happiness, several factors are involved in the “employee experience.” But step one in a positive employee experience (which in turn leads them to create positive experiences for customers) is “working for someone who values you and wants to create an environment where you can focus on your job.”

Technology has become a key factor in creating that environment and enabling (or hindering) employee focus on the job.

In the webcast Rewriting the Rules of Service Management, Eveline Oehrlich of Forrester Research discusses the same linkage between employee happiness and business performance, then extends this into guidance on enterprise technology strategy.

She outlines the concept of “flow”—the state in which employees achieve maximum productivity (and happiness), being entirely engrossed in and focused on the tasks at hand. Technology problems can interrupt this flow, with negative consequences for both productivity and employee happiness.

But a shift in the focus of technology strategy from “IT support” (call if something breaks) to “workforce enablement” (viewing technology as a means to support “flow”) helps maximize employee productivity and happiness.

How ERM Supports Workforce Enablement

Oehrlich outlines Forrester’s “4 Ps” model for model for workforce enablement: support must be productive, pain-free, personal, and proactive.

Forrester 4-P model of workforce enablement
Source: Forrester Research

The enterprise request management (ERM) approach combines an intuitive, centralized request portal for any type of employee services with backend process automation to improve service speed and quality while simplifying service requests for employees. Implementing an ERM strategy addresses the four Ps in the Forrester model as follows.

Productive: an ERM portal gives employees one place to go to request anything needed to do their jobs (no need to learn multiple systems or remember which department provides which services); speeds up the request submission process by 80% or more; and allows employees to submit requests or report incidents with minimal disruption to their normal workflow.

Pain-free: ERM provides a consumer-like experience for requesting enterprise services and resources. Employees can easily submit requests and check on the status of pending requests at any time, from any device.

Personal: the ERM portal displays services and resources available to each employee based on that person’s specific role and location. Request fields (name, email address, phone number, etc.) are pre-populated based on the employee’s login, eliminating the need for redundant data entry and speeding the request submission process.

How to create "formless" requests using QR codesProactive: An ERM implementation can be customized to enable “formless” mobile incident reports using QR codes, as Advanced Technology Services has done. Hardware assets in an ITSM database have an associated QR code related to them. When employees scan QR codes, they are asked if they would like to submit an incident for the scanned item. If they confirm the submission, an incident is created in the system with the proper hardware incident categorization, asset information, support group assignment, and user information.  A log file is then pulled from the company’s IT performance monitoring system and attached to the incident for a technician to review.

Morgan concludes her Forbes article repeating her basic equation: “happy agents (employees) = happy interactions = happy experiences = happy stock price.”

While many factors affect employee happiness, workplace technology plays a vital role. A proactive IT strategy incorporating ERM for employee provisioning plays an important part in keeping employees happy and productive, while reducing the time and cost of delivering employee services. All of which leads to a happier bottom line.

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