Workplace Workarounds: The Hidden Epidemic Harming Customer Experience


You might not have heard of a workplace workaround, but you could be using one right now and creating a negative customer experience without even realising it.

What are workarounds?

The technical definition of a ‘workaround’ is a plan or method to circumvent a problem without eliminating it completely. On an everyday level, a workaround is a process that you complete to plug a hole in your existing workplace systems.

Need to move data from one system to another? That’s a workaround. Using a spreadsheet to track information you don’t hold centrally? That’s another workaround. As you begin looking more closely at your daily tasks, you’ll start to realise that you’re working around an array of problems, not solving them. Unfortunately, this can have a seriously detrimental effect on your customer experience.

An epidemic in every workplace

According to our recent report, The State of Software Workarounds 2018, too many companies invest time and resources in homegrown software, spreadsheets and generic one-size-fits-all solutions that only work in the short term (and most likely cause major long-term issues).

Workarounds don’t discriminate. They exist across every industry and in every size of organisation, with 84% of employees surveyed identifying at least one workaround. Three-quarters also admitted to using workarounds, such as spreadsheets or paper-based processes, to complete tasks that could be easily automated.

This might not seem like a huge issue – workarounds often seem to be the best and quickest way to overcome a barrier. Indeed, management teams could even be encouraging people to use initiative and come up with new processes that get around common obstacles. However, our report suggests that companies regularly fail to think about the long-term impact of implementing such quick fixes.

The problem with new processes

Workarounds frequently create ongoing consequences that are often difficult to spot, or easily attributed to another cause. For instance, workarounds get in the way of decision makers seeing the full picture. If you’re hiding data away on a sheet that no one but a handful of people know about, how can they possibly make informed decisions? That’s before you begin to think about the issues around data security in the age of GDPR.

This might all sound like an issue to be solved internally, but you can guarantee your customers have noticed the effect of workarounds on their customer experience. The best experiences are smooth, efficient and revolve around resolving customer queries as effectively as possible – and the key to delivering them is being able to track the customer journey across different interactions and agents, sharing accurate information with the departments that need access to it.

Workarounds can quickly chip away at your productivity and accuracy. With data spread across different systems, it’s near impossible for your teams to get a full picture of a customer’s interactions with your company. This leads to a frustrating and sometimes unbearable situation, causing consumers to reconsider using your services. It’s an especially critical issue in financial services, where providing an exceptional customer experience is key in building and maintaining the customers’ trust and loyalty. After all, how can people hand over their finances to an organisation that can’t even track data between its own departments?  

Are workarounds holding your company back?

On top of all the other issues that workarounds cause, they create an environment where processes multiply, forcing teams to create more and more as their software becomes outdated. This not only creates the potential for a negative customer experience, but also prevents you from improving it in the future.

While workarounds aren’t entirely to blame for this, their use has a knock-on effect on how companies view their software. When teams make ageing or already outdated software work because they have to, it can undermine the need for updates or upgrades.

In this way, workarounds can severely hinder company growth – making their people and processes ever more inefficient as software goes unchanged. This places companies in real danger, putting them at risk of falling behind market changes, customer needs and competitors’ services.

Identify the epidemic and eradicate workarounds

Having been introduced to the dangers of workarounds, there’s a good chance you’ll start spotting them everywhere – even in areas of your company you thought had been running smoothly. The positive thing is that identifying workarounds is the first step towards removing them.

The key to building trust and delivering the best customer experience is to create a workplace with no more workarounds. There are good reasons you don’t carry out absolutely every task on paper or in spreadsheets – it would be inefficient, costly and difficult to track. So why would you introduce those same issues to any other area of your organisation?

Find out more: read our report on The State of Software Workarounds 2018 and why they represent a hidden epidemic that could cost companies dearly.

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