You may be, if you don’t understand the defining differences between how your employees interact with your IT and how your customers interact with your IT.

In the first instance, your employees are tasked with understanding your IT system and how to use it. They’ve most likely been trained on how to harness it to make processes and workload flow smoothly. They may even have been a part of the developmental process in its design and implementation. Most importantly they’re accountable to you for their competence; they’re expected to know how to use it efficiently and will certainly hear about it from their managers if they can’t.

For customers, the scenario is quite different. Your IT has to work for them, not the other way around. It has to work in a way that’s intuitive and scaled to the average customer’s ability. It has to work on their devices and follow their processes, not yours. It’s their way or the highway. And if they can’t make it work with minimal fuss and irritation, they’ll find a competitor who has made their online store friendlier and easier to navigate.

How do these disruptive new end user’s demands change the landscape, particularly when it comes to maintaining the critical balance of your business triangle – people, processes and technology – that allows your enterprise to stay healthy and functional?

  1. Your salespeople and sales support staff have to be trained to do technical support. Product knowledge and great customer service skills used to be the most we demanded from those on our teams tasked with dealing directly with our customers. That’s no longer true. By the time a frustrated would-be buyer stops wrestling with your hard-to-use website and calls your customer service line for help, they’re already on the way to being lost to you. Obviously the first line of defense is having great web design that makes it easy to order – but your support staff has to be ready to walk your would-be customer through any troubles they might be having with patience, humor and respect. They’ve got to know what the most common issues are and how to work around them, and they have to be able to explain it clearly to the frustrated person on the other end of the conversation. And make sure the site itself has plenty of information and how-to instruction.

  2. Think through the different ways your customer might wish to use your online presence, and find ways to make them work with your processes. Are your internal processes stymieing your customers? There are many more processes in play once you’re interacting with customers online, and as we’ve said, they’re going to dictate the terms of engagement – or disengagement if they can’t make your processes work the way they need them to. 
  1. Your online presence has to work seamlessly on their devices. When your customers switched from ordering on their laptops to ordering on their smartphones, did you create an app to make that upgrade seamless, or are they stuck trying to navigate your full website on that little screen? Your customers expect your system to run on any device they’re using and at any available bandwidth. Do you want to make that easy or tough?  Choosing your platforms and interface with an eye to their needs and abilities is more crucial now than ever. Invest in making it simple and intuitive, and you’ll be paid back in higher sales.

“The customer is always right” is a truism, but in today’s global marketplace the customer has more options than ever – and a rapidly shrinking attention span. Don’t tax their patience with bad or thoughtless IT, because it’s just too easy to change the channel and find a more user-friendly buying experience. Don’t let sloppy or outdated IT turn your company into a tech wreck.