Silo-Busting for Better Customer Experience

December 8, 2016

by Carla Johnson

One of the biggest challenges in delivering a seamless, consistent customer experience is organizational silos.

Silos hurt the flow of information and fracture employee attention. Groups tend to focus on metrics that address their area of responsibility, which may hurt the overall customer experience if they aren’t tied to the overall experience that’s delivered to customers.

In an ideal world, silos are transparent and permeable. But we all work in the real world, and where easily leveraging information and expertise is easier said than done. A survey from the American Management Association showed that 83% of executives said that silos existed in their companies and that 97% think they have a negative effect. Breaking down silos takes effort and a willingness to lose control of our kingdom.

Silos are never customer-centric. They’re always company-centric. But we have to realize that just because something makes life (presumably) easier for us, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for customers.

In a recent whitepaper from NewVoiceMedia, the author lists three kinds of silos with which companies struggle:

  1. Operational silos – functionally based. Marketing runs a campaign and doesn’t think to let the customer care center know they may be flooded with calls. A disjointed company that’s actually two companies in one, such as a credit card company and a bank. The credit card company sends and offer but the bank rejects the applications because they don’t meet qualification requirements. Or customers having to tell their story from scratch every time they’re transferred within the company because their history doesn’t transfer with them.
  2. Channel Silos – interaction based. As new channels and touch points emerge, old ones don’t disappear. There’s a separate approach to managing every channel yet customers hop from channel to channel and expect a seamless experience. While consistency is key across touchpoints, brands also need to realize how much customer data they lose without an over-arching strategy in place.
  3. Hierarchical silos – organizational level based. A flatter management structure can encourage employees to take initiative without needing the approval from several managers.

With three big hurdles standing before us, what can organizations to do break down silos? NewVoiceMedia proposed some silo-smashing advice. This includes hiring a Chief Customer Officer, a position that’s become more common in the last five years. The responsibility of this board-level executive is to lead customer experience efforts across business units throughout the entire company.

But getting to the level where the rest of the C-suite agrees that this justifies another person at the executive table is challenging. To get there, start with these core things:

  • Focus on the customer. Period. Your product or service will never realize its full potential unless you stay close to the people who buy and use it. Learn what matters in their world. Are you missing, meeting or exceeding their expectations?
  • Within your organization, let information flow free to the people who impact customers. Instead of hoarding information for political gain, encourage and reward sharing with an eye to delivering the most positive experience possible – not only for the customer, but for employees delivering the experience.
  • Encourage collaboration, teamwork, trust and open communication. This has to be championed from the top down rather than a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mentality. We all know how well that works out for the customer at the end of the day.

To dig deeper into the topic and learn Why Silos Damage Customer Experience, download the whitepaper.

Photo credit: Flickr user Doc Searls

     About Carla

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Carla is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author. Having lived, worked, and studied on five continents, she's partnered with top brands and conferences to train thousands of people how to rethink the work that they do and the impact they can have. Her visionary expertise has inspired and equipped leaders at all levels to embrace change, welcome new ideas, and transform their business.

Her work with Fortune 500 brands served as the foundation for many of her books. Her tenth, RE:Think Innovation, is a #1 new release that busts the myth that innovation is something that requires a specific degree or special training. In fact, Carla explains why, to be a successful company in today's hyper-competitive, customer-driven world, innovation must be everyone's business. Her goal is to teach one million people how to become innovators by 2025.

Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.