Breaking Down Silos for Customer Experience Management

SiloSince customers see their experience as a horizontal series of steps, are silos of experts across the company negatively affecting customer experience?  Yes. We’ve all been through the wringer in our own role as customers and found ourselves in a bewildering maze:

  • “That’s not handled by us; so-and-so will have to take care of you.”
  • “Oh, that’s new; department X hasn’t told us all the details yet.”
  • “Yes, but that feature won’t be available until the next model is released.”
  • “Our systems are slow in talking with one another; your bill will reflect the change next cycle.”

Costs of Silos

Although dedicated groups of experts spelled efficiency when we entered the industrial age, their insular nature causes inefficiencies and hassles both for your customers and for your company.  The costs:  stress, wasted time, re-work, scrap, lower morale, and missed opportunities — for all parties.

Silver Bullets

Turning to technology or organization structure to solve all these ills is often a step in the right direction. But like all things in life, there’s never a single silver bullet. There are still plenty of hiccups caused by people and processes that aren’t singing from the same page.

Breaking down silos is not easy. For example, Marketing and Sales alignment seems like a natural, but there are different time horizons in play for these two groups, along with differing skill sets and deliverables that are not always perceived by the other party to be well appreciated or supported.

Rallying Point

So what’s the rallying point for breaking down silos?  Since customers are the source of everyone’s budgets, paychecks, and meaningful work, customer experience is the magic potion that provides common ground, shared vision, and a unifying force. The tricky parts of establishing customer experience management (CXM) as a silo-buster are:

  • Accurately defining customer experience:

Customer experience includes not only touch-points with your company, but also the product/service that is purchased, and all the behind-the-scenes efforts of your customers before, during, and after the touch-points that are visible to you.

  1. For retailers, customer experience more than the store and the people.
  2. For manufacturers, customer experience is more than the product and the selling and servicing processes.
  3. For service providers, customer experience is more than customer interactions.

Key:  No department is exempt from having an impact on the customer experience.

  • Accurate understanding of customer experience:

Customers’ stories about what matters to them, what’s helpful and what’s a hassle are eye-opening for employees, especially those employees who do not interface with customers.

  1. Find ways to share customers’ experiences with everyone.
  2. Send relevant customer feedback to each department in your company regularly.
  3. Involve employees in observing customers to see what’s easy/hard for them.
  4. Keep customer experience anecdotes (not just survey scores) in front of employees on the intranet, in break rooms, in staff meetings, and so forth.

Key:  Keep customer experience vibrantly at top-of-mind for everyone company-wide.

Engage hearts and minds of everyone in centering their work, attitudes, decisions, and collaborations on the rallying point of customer experience.

Coordinate Managers of Customer Experience

Coordination among managers of various customer experience efforts is one of six success factors identified by the ClearAction CXM Best Practices Study.  Think about all the places in the company where the various components of customer experience are managed:  sales teams, market research, customer references, loyalty, analytics, billing, customer service, website, marcom, and so forth.  There is little, if any, coordination among these managers of customer experience in most companies.  Yet, among the companies that facilitate communication at least quarterly among these parties, customer experience and business results tend to blossom.

CXM champions in each business unit and functional area also play an integral role in breaking down silos.  Especially when there are frequent opportunities for CXM champions to meet together, compare notes, identify best practices among themselves, and cross-pollenate the company.  When CXM champions are facilitators of CXM ownership among all the employees, improvements that are meaningful to customers, and in turn, to the business, are catalyzed.

Expect Transformation

If executives approach CXM half-heartedly, they’ll get half-hearted results. A surprising percentage of customer voice programs aim only to collect or analyze data, without expectations of taking significant action on customers’ inputs to the company.  The ClearAction study found that a second success factor is to expect action by departments associated with key drivers of customer experience. If you are sending relevant customer feedback to each department in your company on a regular basis, every department can do their part in improving customer experience.

Use Customer Inputs Everywhere

A third success factor identified in the ClearAction Study is to view customer experience as a determinant – not a subset – of corporate strategy.  Make sure your customer research reveals the kind of information that will be useful in your annual operating plans, hiring and promotion criteria, and every facet of your business. This does not mean that customers need to step out of their world and provide consulting or a report card on everything you do. It means that you should listen carefully to customer-initiated comments that give you clues about what you need to do to align your company with them so that they can fall in love with doing business with you.

Break down silos by establishing customer experience as a unifying rallying point, creating all-employee awareness of customer experience realities, coordinating managers of various components of customer experience, expecting transformation of customer experience, and using customer inputs in all you do. Your new-found collaborative spirit will prevent the unnecessary costs caused by silos, and accelerate customer experience and financial success.

Image: IndigoSkies

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