As a product marketing manager at Microsoft, I’m involved in figuring out the best tech products for clients. I also spent two years uncovering incredible insights for Matter, the book on positioning by Peter Sheahan, Julie Williamson, and Dom Thurbon.
For this research, my team and I conducted hundreds of interviews with business leaders from major brands to see how companies position themselves in the mind of the customer. We found that younger generations are coming into the workplace with a lifetime of experience with the internet and mobile technology — and high expectations regarding their employers’ ability to stay current on the latest productivity-boosting communication technology.
The intersection of business and technology isn’t some esoteric thing that only concerns someone in my position; it’s an evolving science affecting every business, employer, and employee today. While your organization’s decent performance may give the impression that the status quo is working, if you don’t evolve technologically, you’ll miss out on transformative growth opportunities.
A recent study from CompTIA reinforces the obvious: that using the most up-to-date technology is no longer just a matter of brand reputation or a response to the demands of an overzealous IT department — it’s a must-have for companies that want to stay relevant.
Here are four signs that your company is lagging in simple technology:
1. You’re still using paper manuals. Products and service, training, and business processes are changing faster than ever before. Businesses can’t rely on paper-based content — it’s not agile enough to evolve rapidly and can’t exploit the full value of dynamic video and audio. Using hard copy is heavy and can lead to storage, security, and collaboration issues.
No solution is simpler than buying lightweight portable tablets and 2-in-1s, and that’s just what Delta did with its electronic flight bag. The airline transferred all of its documents to a tablet, enabling pilots to access technical manuals, flight maps, and other important information while on the go — and creating happier employees and financial gains in the process. Consequently, Microsoft estimates that removing a 38-pound bag from each flight resulted in fuel-cost savings of $4.2 million.
2. There’s too much downtime in your sales cycle. Healthy sales cycles make it fast and easy for a customer to buy from your company. Imagine the impatience that can build up as customers watch a salesperson struggle to complete a task on paper during a convoluted and disorganized sales process. Too much downtime is especially dangerous in industries such as real estate, where employees rely on continuously updated catalogs with rich multimedia and unit availability to close sales.
Integrating your sales records into one system that can keep track of data, enable collaboration, and allow all team members to access pertinent information on the road is an easy tech solution. Westgate Resorts uses tablets and tablet pens that allow associates to access updated catalogs in real time, access all vital information remotely, and capture signatures electronically. New owners are also given a low-cost branded tablet with a universal Windows application to manage their timeshare, access services, and view other properties.
3. Your customers know more about your product offerings than you do. Even when companies invest in an engaging, cutting-edge customer experience, they sometimes forget to educate frontline employees. In the drive to deliver a great digital customer experience, companies sometimes forget to provide equal (if not superior) knowledge to the employees supporting those customers. This not only stifles employees by leaving them feeling disempowered, but it also leaves negative impressions among customers when they can’t get problems fixed.
Instead of alienating employees or customers with tech resources, take a cue from Dollar General. The company created a mobile platform that provides its managers with timely product and sales data on tablets and smartphones, freeing them up to spend more time on the floor with customers.
4. You don’t promote hypermobility. By now, the concept of remote work is fairly mainstream; the future now lies in hypermobile workforces that can produce great results anytime, anywhere. In high-turnover professions, for example — such as retail sales floor positions — how can the onboarding process help employees reach desired productivity levels quickly?
A portable and lightweight digital “employee onboarding companion” puts all of the knowledge needed at employees’ fingertips, enabling them to succeed. What’s more, managers can view usage, track progress, and reap the benefits of a more informed and highly skilled workforce.
Start by branding the device, case, and/or box with your company’s logo so new employees feel proud and excited about becoming part of it. Then, pre-load it with apps and content to provide important information about the company, product, human resources, and more. Giving them access to cloud-based communication apps such as Yammer, Slack, Skype, or even Facebook also allows teammates to instant message across the business, hold impromptu video calls, praise each other, and perform document screening and sharing with the click of a button.
Don’t let outdated technology prevent your company from attracting innovative Millennial employees and achieving its full production potential. To up your tech game, plan to fail or succeed quickly, continuously driving innovation through small tweaks. Pick a problematic process, and look for simple tech tools and resources to improve it — the innovation will happen naturally as you grow through experimentation.
image credit: wikimedia.org
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Peter Gossin is a product marketing manager at Microsoft. He works with companies to tie their business objectives with innovative technology to produce long-lasting solutions that create deeper customer connection and drive growth. His recent awards include: FY16 Q1 Microsoft North America ShareFighter Award, and the Marketing Excellent Award, US Marketing & Operations Leadership Team. Follow @petergossin