Breaking down those pesky organizational silos
The challenges of breaking down silos can make solving the problem confusing for even the most savvy leaders in the organization. But here’s how.
Customer experience success requires cross-functional collaboration from leaders in marketing, sales, product, service and more. And CX leaders often report that the biggest challenge to achieving results is the silos of their organizations.
Silos appear not only in organizational structure, but also in how data is housed, how technology is implemented, and how permissions impede visibility into the customer journey. All of these silos disrupt the customer experience, leading to broken promises and customer frustration.
A poor customer experience leads to poor business outcomes, such as lower retention rates, higher service costs, and poor word-of-mouth marketing. Breaking down the silos should be in the job description of not just CX managers, but also those across the organization. Yet this is often not addressed by even the most savvy C-Suite executives.
Why is silo-busting so difficult?
In today’s workplace, leaders are often asked to “stay in their lane”. Teams are encouraged to troubleshoot issues specific to their operations and processes. It’s rare to see leaders looking at issues from a holistic perspective of customers and their journeys.
But when silos get in the way, everyone loses. Customers feel left out. The data is ignored. Employees are frustrated. And, ultimately, business results suffer.
Let’s take a look at common areas where silos prevent success and what to do about them.
A lack of communication creates silos
Marketing makes promises based on knowing what’s to come for customers. Sales is in a hurry to make the sale. And customer service needs to respond to customers who feel like they’re on a rocky road.
If we ask leaders to put their heads down and stay in their lanes, we are getting into trouble.
A common missing piece is a universal description of customer experience success. It is not enough to tell leaders to simply be customer-centric or to announce a goal to “exceed customer expectations” when those well-meaning goals are not defined with meaningful definitions and metrics of success.
Cross-functional communication is much easier when leaders all agree on a universal goal. While collaborating and getting out of your way will create better outcomes for everyone, leaders are more likely to feel empowered to both reach out and receive communications around those shared goals.
The good news is that when teams work together, everyone wins. CX teams that collaborate cross-functionally are 27% more likely to have a high or very high return on investment (ROI) in their CX program, according to GetFeedback’s State of CX 2022 report.
Related Article: Setting a Benchmark for Consumer Trust
Data silos make everything harder
This might be the biggest challenge most organizations have. Centralizing customer data and aligning it with operational data is key to delivering personalized experiences.
Customers use the online chat function. Then they get frustrated and call the customer service number. They don’t want to be greeted with “What can we do for you today?” They want their journey to be seen and understood in order to benefit from proactive and personalized support.
Unfortunately, data silos mean that contact center agents and other frontline employees have little or no visibility into customer data. Consider how many agents don’t have customer data because it resides in another part of the organization. While they should have access to past customer purchases or most recent service interactions, they should also see any aggregate feedback metrics provided by the customer. This more complete view of the customer helps the brand provide better service and in turn increases the likelihood of customer loyalty.
Customers tell us they now expect personalization. According to a McKinsey & Company report, a large majority (71%) of consumers expect personalization. The only way to do this is to strategically connect customer data and provide visibility to those who need it at the right time.
Technology and tools themselves can create silos
Supply chain management has long been relegated to a silo in many organizations. The reality of what supply chain disruptions can have on customer journeys, employee efficiency, and product development has hit businesses hard in recent years.
Proactive communication with customers about delays or other disruptions is recommended. This requires information and communication before the customer reports a missing product or a delay. Yet technology silos often leave CX managers in the dark about these disruptions. This makes it impossible to proactively communicate with customers or prepare staff for the influx of complaints heading their way.
Supply chain management can use technology. Customer service has another. If these solutions aren’t connected enough to provide round-trip visibility, it’s hard to stay ahead of the customer journey.
Smart planning means not only addressing long-term issues within the supply chain itself, but also planning for what happens to the customer experience when those disruptions occur.
Even better, CX managers, customer support, and other front-line teams like store associates and repair technicians have visibility into where products are in the supply chain journey. . Expectations and promises are then adjusted based on this real-time information.
Related Article: Bring Your Project Together for an Exceptional Customer Experience
Dismantling silos is serious business
We know that collaboration means better results. We know that customer data must be centralized and visible. We know that technology can deliver more real-time information across the enterprise.
Legacy systems, outdated processes, and too much backward thinking make it difficult to truly break those silos.
There are places to start and things to do. Here are some questions to consider in your organization:
- Does everyone agree on the common and specific definition of what success looks like for the customer experience? Otherwise, silos will appear around various goals and understandings.
- Are there regular ways to connect and collaborate around the end-to-end holistic customer experience? Ideally, a cross-functional leadership CX team would connect regularly.
- Where is your customer data? If feedback data is kept separate from operational data, which is separate from customer service interaction data, you definitely have a silo problem. Business intelligence means connecting these data points to get real insights.
- What parts of the customer journey impact the parts you own? Evaluate what precedes the delivery of the product or service and ensure there is visibility. Ask for the right permissions to see what’s essential for real-time information.
- Finally, what results do you want? This is an incredibly important question that often goes unanswered. Define the desired business results and how cross-functional collaboration, data centralization, and global visibility can help drive those results.
Silos will not disappear overnight. But collaboration has to start somewhere. Focus on customer experience and advocate for breaking down silos wherever possible.