When we think of customer service we think of keeping external customers happy. Organisations spend vast sums of money to provide great customer service. Why? To keep customers coming back.

Customer service various from sector to sector. Commercial organisations are at the forefront of customer service because it’s a competitive world and they’ll lose customers and money to companies which do it better. Transport companies like train operators provide poor customer service. Why? Because their customers are captive audiences, however they are being forced to improve through regulation.

It’s a cliche which you’ve heard before – your staff are also your customers

At the bottom of the barrel is the service provided by organisations to its staff. Employee’s jobs are held up because of cumbersome IT systems, complex organisational politics and a great number of other reasons, but the result is still the same. The more time employees waste on mundane, time-consuming tasks, the less engaged they become.

Customer service is the plaster applied to a wound caused when something goes wrong in the system. The ultimate goal of any organisation which has customers is to be so efficient that it doesn’t need to have a customer service team.

IT teams are the closest an organisation gets to providing customer service to staff, as they’re the ones who know about the systems which staff use throughout their days.

However, poor customer service arises mainly because the head count in IT doesn’t keep up with organisational growth. Senior directors drag their heels when managers in IT say they need more people. Pressure builds on IT helpdesk, who become disengaged, staff start leaving, and the whole system starts to suffer. By then, it’s almost too late and it’s just accepted that IT provide a patchy service to staff.

Q: What makes a great customer service team? A: One which the customer never needs to use

Referring back to customer service in a commercial sense, the cash invested in customer service teams is actually starting to decline, as organisations have started to realise that it’s better to make the original systems and processes better than by throwing money at more customer service personnel. To use another analogy, it’s better to turn off the water at the mains to fix a leak, rather than trying to fix a pipe whilst it’s still leaking.

What’s this got to do with intranets?

Most intranets, even now, focus almost exclusively on content. Intranet managers, or editors if you have a devolved content governance structure, think that the user journey starts with the homepage of the intranet and ends with the user consuming a piece of information that will help them do their job better.

This adequately describes the user-journey with respect to the intranet, however the intranet’s part in this is ONLY in the ‘discovery’ phase of a user-journey.

The consumption of content is only ONE part of many which forms the entire user-journey. Most processes require the user to complete an action which then kicks off some sort of approval process involving other people. Some intranets have online forms which reduce the need to print stuff out. Others may even utilise approval workflows.

However, many processes have several dimensions to them, not just the linear journey taking the user from nothing to something. However, at the very core of eliminating the need for customer service is ‘knowledge’, therefore to make an intranet as useful as possible, we need to make the most use of its content, and that means transcending the gap that exists between systems of content and systems of application (i.e. a system that allows a user to complete an action like request holiday). What’s more, this entire user-journey needs to be seamless so that staff don’t say things like ‘I’ll email you the policy, you then have to go onto the intranet to submit the form…’.

The dream-team of internal customer service: Intranet – Workflow – App

By knowing how users are likely to need information you can start to plan a holistic approach to business improvement through digital technology and make some real inroads into saving people time AND reducing the burden on internal customer services teams like IT. Lets face it, IT helpdesk analysts are a lot more intelligent than some of the requests they receive (‘How do I reset my password?‘) give them credit for. In fact, the following project started with some analysis that discovered that the question ‘How do I reset my password?’ was answered by the helpdesk over 1000 times a year.

We recently built an IT Helpdesk system for a client who knew they needed a more intelligent approach to just increasing their head count.

We did the following:

  • Analysed the types of enquires staff made to IT helpdesk
  • Reviewed how staff accessed IT helpdesk content on the intranet
  • Reported on the above and proposed a system to help reduce calls to IT and increase usage of intranet content, whilst digitising many of the entire processes
  • Built a new IT knowledge base on their intranet, scrapping Word/PDF-based content and implementing user-friendly/responsive page layouts
  • Built an IT Helpdesk smartphone app for staff to submit and track helpdesk tickets
  • Integrated intranet IT knowledge base content into the app as part of the ticketing process