Freshworks (formerly Freshdesk), a customer engagement software company, has delivered research results which claim to show that US sales and service agents waste a combined 516 million hours, valued at $8.3bn, a year trying to navigate software. The wasted hours come from searching for information, clicking through confusing menus, working around glitches and missing functionality. This represents lost productivity every year.
Freshworks CEO and founder Girish Mathrubootham said: “This lack of employee involvement is an outrage for those on the frontlines of the customer relationship and should be a wake-up call for companies who are looking to increase both employee productivity and customer satisfaction.
“Organizations have a responsibility — to their employees, their customers and themselves — to bring the voice of their workers into the technology-buying process. The happiness of their employees and customers depends on it, as does the health of their business.”
The Freshworks survey
Freshworks conducted the ‘Voice in the Choice’ online survey in August 2019 among 400 customer-facing sales and support employees in the US. These are people who use software to engage with customers on a daily basis.
The calculation of the hours wasted each year used the survey responses and compared these with external wage and employment data:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 Current Population Survey estimates US sales role employment (excluding retail) at 5.6m people.
- Site Selection Group (a market intelligence provider) estimates the U.S. call centre workforce in the US at approximately 3m people.
- Wage data, again from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the 2018 Occupational Outlook Handbook reports the median pay for customer service representatives at $16.23 per hour.
The ‘Voice in the Choice’ survey reveals a possible culprit – derived from the software selection process. Nearly all end users reported they have little to no voice in the selection of the software they will have to use. The impact of such a top-down ‘software dictatorship:
- goes beyond the enormous cost and time loss
- extends to employee morale, retention
- affects customer satisfaction.
Selection without representation is tyranny
The survey questioned 400 front line customer service and success employees. Their responses showed that those respondents feel powerless to determine which software they use:
- 97% felt they had little or no influence into its selection.
- 57% said they had no clue who did choose the software they use.
- 43% claimed not to don’t know their employer had chosen specific software.
To emphasise the point, many respondents to the Freshworks survey indicated they had greater control over office snack selection than the software they use day in and day out. Indeed, when it came to the biggest impact on end users’ ability to do their jobs well, software was the top factor. 47% stated the software they use has a major or complete impact. Summarised, the survey indicated that the Work life factors which improve employee performance included:
- software they use (47%)
- work scheduling (41%)
- seat or desk assignment (16%)
- office snack selection (6%).
The impact on companies, end users and customers
The pain of software dictatorship has both quantitative and qualitative ramifications:
- 50% said that, when they have to use software they hate, it is harder for them to satisfy customers.
- 20% reported that, when they are frustrated with software, they are more likely to be rude to customers.
Exclusion from an organisations’ software decision-making also impacts overall employee morale. Asked about employee retention, 24% stated that using software they hate makes them want to quit their jobs. Such flight risk is even more acute with millennials. 30% stating to Freshworks that handcuffing them to bad software creates the incentive to pack up and leave. Tellingly, using ‘hated’ software brings frustration and unhappiness at work to more people (26%) than the drudgery of long hours and working overtime (23%).
“Sales and support agents at the front line of customer care often deal with the negative implications of a bad software selection,” said R “Ray” Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research Inc.
“This happens not by malice but often because the vendor selection team fails to include the input of frontline employees. In fact, the selection team is often limited to managers who prioritize business requirements over end-user needs. The result is hours of lost productivity each day for every employee, along with a negative impact on customer service.”
The survey revealed that increased user involvement not only increases productivity but increases job satisfaction. End users report that, if management involved them in deciding what software to use, it would make them feel respected (60%) and empowered (40%) while boosting employee morale (43%).
The data highlights the idea that many employees would rather have some input into the selection of the software they will use than traditional time-honored benefits. Of those surveyed, more than half preferred to choose software they might ‘love’ than have a 401(k) or two extra days of paid vacation.
Additionally, employees reported waste caused by using ineffective software impacts their happiness at work. 64% offered that being efficient brings job fulfillment at their job – more than bonus eligibility (50%), friendships with colleagues (47%), career advancement opportunities (35%) or even having stock options (18%).
Enterprise Times: what does this mean
To some degree these survey results fit ‘too neatly with Freshworks. It is, after all (in its own words) a provider of “innovative customer engagement software for businesses of all sizes, making it easy for teams to acquire, close, and keep their customers for life”.
Ignoring this, it is an attractive proposition to suggest enlightened managers should adopt a more democratic approach to selecting software – because of the prospective gains. Is it practical in the case of sales support agents? That is a much tougher question. The probability, at least to Enterprise Times (ET), is asked for input most sales and support agents will not have enough knowledge depth of either a business’ process or back-end systems to assist software selection. To ET these survey results stimulate a conversation but do not indicate a convincing, practical path forwards, despite the good intentions.