woman on tablet in shop
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Customer-facing employees, or frontline workers, make up a large percentage of the retail, food services, telecommunications, banking and hospitality workforce, estimated to number over 2 billion strong. Even though they represent a large portion of the workforce, they are also somewhat disconnected to the companies they work for, given the fact most are in the field or on their feet doing their jobs and do not have access to a corporate desktop computer. You meet these corporate representatives every day, as cashiers, waitresses, bank tellers and nurses, to name a few.

Without a connection to the rest of the company and the ability to communicate and engage with their off-site coworkers and management, these customer-facing employees can feel like the “forgotten” workers. These workers are some of a company’s most important employees though, considering they act as the face of the company’s brand on a daily basis. They, just like your in-office workers, need to be kept up to date on corporate initiatives and mandates and need to feel like they are a part of the whole organization. Just like your office workers, they want to be more productive on their jobs, and need to be dialed-in to your company’s culture and policies. In short, they need an easy-to-access modern intranet solution tailored for them.

Customer-facing employees haven’t typically been reached by corporate communications, whose traditional intranet solutions were more focused on internal staff on desktop computers. Reaching customer-facing workers means accessibility is paramount when considering what type of intranet solution your company decides to set up. Helping to fuse productivity and the need to find company information can be another way to get frontline employees engaged with an intranet, if they come to get some work done or change a schedule, they may stay and consume company news and announcements.

Related Article: Top 6 Reasons Why Employees Don't Use Your Intranet

4 Key Intranet Features for Customer-Facing Employees

If your organization has a sizable group of customer facing employees, you should ensure these four key features in your intranet solution. All these features will ensure accessibility for any employee, and access to the tools they need to collaborate and to be more productive in work and at home.

Cloud-Based

Having a cloud-based SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) intranet solution is a must-have feature if you want your customer-facing employees to be able to access it where and when they need it. With a cloud-based intranet solution, employees do not need a VPN to access it, so the reach of the intranet is extended much further than it would be with a traditional localized system.

Mobile-Enabled for All Devices

How do you make an intranet accessible to employees who do not have a company-issued laptop, without buying them all new laptops? The answer is you make sure your new intranet solution is mobile-enabled, and can be accessed securely from a personal smartphone or tablet. A mobile-friendly intranet should be developed using responsive, mobile-friendly design to ensure any web page can be seen and rendered appropriately on any mobile device.

Related Article: What Does a Successful Intranet Look Like? It Depends on Your Vantage Point

Office 365-Based

Some modern cloud-based intranet solutions, like Catapult’s Fuse Platform, run on top of Microsoft Office 365 to provide a front door into its expanded suite of frontline worker tools and features. This provides numerous benefits to the customer-facing worker, who now has access not just to an intranet to get corporate information, but also access to a wide array of commonly used enterprise collaboration and productivity apps, including:

  • Yammer — Employees can use Yammer, an enterprise social networking site, to share tips and best practices with their coworkers on how to better serve customers and to give these frontline workers a voice in their company through interactive discussion.
  • Microsoft Teams — Microsoft Teams, a platform that combines chat, meetings, notes and attachments can provide multiple ways for customer-facing employees to collaborate and be productive. Some examples of usage include providing a method of collecting employee feedback, and enabling workers in to collaborate remotely on documents.
  • StaffHub — StaffHub is an app that is dedicated to customer-facing employees, providing functionality that includes the ability for restaurant workers to view and trade their upcoming work shifts with each other.

A Dedicated App

To deliver a truly rich experience for your workers it is important for your intranet to offer a dedicated app experience in addition to being able to render full pages on a mobile device. With a dedicated app, you get a variety of features like push-notifications that can help keep employees on top of time-sensitive  information, such as store closures due to inclement weather or reminders of an impending deadline to file benefit forms. An app also allows for a dedicated unique user experience for all employees aside from the desktop web pages.

Related Article: 2 Tricks for Reducing Employee Turnover

Don't Leave Your Intranet Success to Hope

In the past for the traditional intranet build, a corp comms team would set up an intranet portal, waiting for employees to come and hoping people would use it. Hope is not a strategy. Effective employee communications should be intentional and measurable. This old on-premises model just doesn’t work well when a large portion of the workforce is made up of customer-facing workers who do not have a corporate desktop computer. For any company in an industry where customer-facing employees make up a sizable percentage of their workforce, having an intranet solution focused on mobility and productivity is key to providing an accessible and collaborative work environment.