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10 Things You Need to Know Before Investing in Technology

How successful your HR applications are depends on how your customers -- such as employees and managers -- view, perceive, and use them.

March 22, 2002
Related Topics: Technology

HR cannot effectively transform itself -- or achieve desired business results-- unless it not only puts key HR processes directly into the hands of itscustomers, but also makes it easy for customers to access them, use them, andobtain value from them.

    Here are 10 things that every HR manager should know about the online HRcustomer experience.

  1. The customer experience is different from the user interface, and why thatmatters.

    The user interface of a Web site (or a transactional application) is the setof online screens -- composed of text, graphics, data, and navigation elements-- that a customer interacts with to find information, perform a transaction, orsolve a problem. The customer experience is broader, encompassing the userinterface, communication design, interactivity, performance, credibility, andbranding of the site or solution. Changes and improvements to the user interfaceor a Web site or Web application are tactical and can be made quickly. Changesand improvements to the customer experience are strategic and require a higherdegree of planning and team integration.

  2. Every organization that delivers HR services or information online isproviding its internal customers with a "customer experience."

    The customer experience provided may be good, bad, or somewhere in between.The point is that if a business has content, tools, or applications available tointernal customers on an intranet -- and they are being used -- then thebusiness is also providing a customer experience to those people.

  3. The scope of the customer experience includes the substance and quality ofall interactions with online services and information,including content, interactivity, design, ease of use, speed of use, and thedegree of alignment with customer and business goals.

    Scope can be narrow, such as the customer experience provided by a specificWeb site or application. Scope can also be broad, such as the customerexperience provided on an employee portal or intranet.

  4. The customer experience that an organization delivers via its electronicHR solutions is a critical component of the larger "employment experience"provided via branding, program design, service delivery, and communication.

    As more interactions between internal customers and the organization aredriven to employee portals and intranets, the quality of the customer experienceis becoming a key lever in optimizing business results and supporting theemployment relationship. The ease, speed, consistency, and perceived value ofonline solutions can reinforce -- or undermine -- an organization’s employmentbrand strategy. The easier it is for customers to "do business" with theorganization, the higher the quality of the customer’s interaction and themore positive the perception.

  5. In many organizations, the online HR customer experience is fragmented andlacks consistency.

    Until very recently, any unit within the HR function of almost anycorporation that has built a workable business case for "e-enablement" hasbeen able to win approval to create Web pages, build an e-HR system, or purchasean e-HR point solution. Moreover, many organizations have failed to rigorouslyenforce internal design standards or apply them to transactional applications.The multiplicity of user interfaces forces customers to spend extra timelearning how to use each solution in order to obtain maximum value. This has anegative impact on user productivity and can increase rollout costs.

  6. Accountability/responsibility for the quality of the overall customerexperience is often unclear within organizations and varies from company tocompany.

    This is a governance issue that many organizations are only beginning toaddress. Ownership of the broader business-to-employee (B2E, you might say)customer experience can reside within employee communications, marketing, IT, aninternal e-business unit, or a cross-functional committee. Ownership of theelectronic HR customer experience can reside in HR, an HRIS subset of HR,employee communications, and/or an internal e-business unit.

  7. The quality of the customer experience can be measured.

    Expert reviewers can use tools to rate the quality of content, navigation,interactivity, and usability using industry-standard benchmarks. Meanwhile, usersurveys and focus groups can be used to measure changes in perception of value,whereas utilization metrics, such as percentage of completed transactions andtime-to-complete transactions, can be automatically collected.

  8. The quality of the customer experience affects customer satisfaction andcredibility.

    When online solutions match user needs, satisfaction often improvesdramatically. In 1992, a Gartner Group study found that application of usabilitytesting methods -- a key lever in improving the customer experience -- typicallyraised user-satisfaction ratings by 40 percent. Meanwhile, a 2001 study byStanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab found that users consistentlyrated sites that were easy to use as more credible.

  9. Organizations that rigorously test online solutions with internalcustomers can see a substantial payoff.

    • "The rule of thumb: every dollar invested in ease of use returns $10 to$100." (IBM)

    • "…costs related to undetected and unresolved usability problems canincrease operating expenses by 25 percent or more." (The Gartner Group)

    • "Web sites that are hard to use frustrate customers, forfeit revenue,and erode brands." (Forrester)

  10. A poor or mediocre customer experience can negatively affect the ROI oftransactional applications.

    • By increasing abandonment (the number of customers bailing out of atransactional application prior to the transaction being completed/recorded toseek an alternative form of delivery)

    • By decreasing utilization of electronic HR resources and subsequentlyincreasing utilization of more expensive delivery channels such as call centers,paper forms, HR generalists, managers, etc.

    • By increasing support costs for HR staff or call-center personnel toresolve problems of customers who cannot find or use content or a transactionalprocess

    • By necessitating additional "repair" costs to fix unusable sites andapplications as well as supplementary change communication

    • By decreasing customer productivity as more time is spent with the site orapplication to accomplish tasks

Workforce Online, April 2002 -- Register Now!

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