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When businesses play favorites and choose customer experience over employee, everybody loses PHOTO: Dermot O'Halloran

Small companies, no matter what their business, have often struggled to provide good IT service to their employees. 

It’s a matter of cost. The cost of technology is still a major expense to many small organizations. Employees often must make due with last year’s model smartphone or laptop. 

The cloud, however, has brightened the software landscape for small businesses. A host of low cost subscription software products are now available that offer great new features on a regular basis to small companies. For a monthly pittance, smaller organizations can provide employees with the latest Microsoft Office, Google Apps and social media software.

A Disconnect Between Customers and Employees

Ironically, it’s the big companies who ignore their internal customers. It’s the case of the shoemaker’s children have no shoes. 

Big companies who invest in the creation of outstanding digital experiences for customers leave employees using antiquated, old on-premises software. Employees are left with a digital experience right out of the 1990s, rough file stores based on last generation SharePoint implementations, limited mobile options and even homegrown DOS and COBOL programs that are more attuned to an ancient terminal than a modern laptop.

Contacting IT inside a big company is rarely the same experience as a customer contacting the customer care center. 

Customers have reliable chat options, video conferencing, self-help options such as videos and AI chat bots from within Facebook Messenger. Employees have ancient trouble ticket systems with limited feedback and FAQs and knowledge bases last updated when Mark Zuckerberg was still in college. 

The result? Everything is more difficult in big companies. Getting a laptop for a new employee can take a week while getting a full set of software can involve a month of navigating a bureaucratic labyrinth. Sharing information is often through long and arduous email chains. 

Why Does This Happen? 

Unlike small companies, a multitude of stakeholders are involved. For some people, new ways and new tools are a distraction or frightening. 

Rolling out software to thousands of employees can take months as opposed to a day for 10 people in small company. The investment may not be larger proportionally but the raw cost may be a very large number. Training, security and incompatibilities with many systems are especially difficult in a large, varied and complex environment.

The most common reason though is a lack of priority for providing employee facing software over customer facing software. The thinking goes: If I update my customer experience it will yield sales results, while if I update my employee experience it will increase my costs. 

Measurable productivity is elusive, and tying employee churn and performance to the tools they use nearly impossible.

No Winners Here

More than anything, collaboration suffers the most from a lack of good tools. Small companies can adopt Slack and use it effectively. Big companies struggle to get traction with social collaboration tools, let alone use them effectively. 

Even if a big company can convince enough employees to embrace collaboration tools outside of file sharing, being able to directly measure changes in the business attributable to these tools is devilishly difficult. So even when companies know that collaboration software is working, it’s hard to prove it to budget holders who have to pay for it.

The lack of modern tools and the inability to take advantage of new technology is, for many large companies, becoming a drag on their digital transformation. By ignoring the employee channel, the hoped-for benefits of new customer facing digital systems will be unsupported by the human resources who are essential to a great customer experience and true transformation.