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silos don't have to
hurt the customer

Author: Mike Elgan

The formation of organizational silos isn't anybody's fault. Silofication is simply what happens when an organizational structure puts people into distinct groups with different objectives and skill sets. Each group of employees develops its own unique in-silo subculture.

But silos can upset the customer experience and stymie CX initiatives. Innovation and opportunity require company-wide collaboration, and it is up to leadership to unify the silos to meet CX goals.

Recognizing and solving organizational silos

Though silos can cause myriad problems, weak customer service is No. 1. The customer expects to interact with your organization as a single entity. But if every department operates as its own island, the customer won't be served—and might take their business elsewhere.

When branding isn't backed up by technology or when customer service representatives can't tell the difference between a prospective customer and an existing customer, the impact of silos can be overwhelming. These essential truths apply to just about everyone in the organization. But how do you address the customer experience problems created by silofication?

The first step is to get organized. Set up a team with decision-makers, and make sure that each team member represents the expertise and strengths of their silo. The team's first priority should be to set objectives for the organization around customer experience. Map the customer journey to determine - What mindsets need to change? What actions need to change? How are customers not being served? Find out what the shared goals are for customer service, then solve the problems obstructing those goals.

Don't rely on technology to solve your customer experience woes—focus on the people. Technology is vital, but it should connect people in shared data spaces and enable decision-making processes.

Communication is the best way to build a customer experience department structure. Invest in the tools that empower real-time knowledge-sharing and seamless end-to-end digital workflows across silos. Break down information silos first, then process silos, then customer service silos.

Three pieces to the CX puzzle

Silos are inherent in the corporate architecture, but they don't have to be a drag on the customer experience department. Turning customer service into a competitive advantage requires three key building blocks.

1. Mapping the customer journey

The customer journey is more complex than ever. Customers have more pathways to products, services, and assistance, but patchwork technology solutions often lead to frustrating friction points that drive down customer satisfaction.

Map out a 360-degree view of the customer journey and identify the key points of employee contact. Diagram how each silo intersects with this journey. Focus on building a consistent, responsive, unified experience across the entire customer experience, and reflect this in contact center policies and practices.

Don't just evangelize your products and services externally; do it internally, too. Making every employee in every silo a fan—somebody who understands the mission and value of your organization and its offerings—will go a long way toward unifying the company's customer service messaging. Marrying the customer experience to the employee experience is one way to create a strong culture of customer service.

2. Connecting organizational silos

When data and departments are siloed, the end-to-end customer journey view is obstructed, making it difficult to improve the customer experience in measurable ways.

Develop customer relationship instincts and skills in all organizational silos by intelligently using collaboration tools and training programs across departments. It takes strong leadership to get groups that don't directly face customers to change their internal cultures and prioritize the customer experience.

Nurture a culture of collaboration and cooperation, and make sure that every department is motivated to prioritize customer service.

3. Analyzing available data

Companies are drowning in data, but only a small fraction of the data from interactions ever gets analyzed.

Gather your customer service data into a single, shared place with real-time updates. Customers should be able to make changes to their accounts over the phone and immediately see those changes online or in an app interface. The goal is a single, unified source of fact and truth for all customer data.

The contact center is not only where actionable data must be accessible, but it's also where vital customer data is collected. Bridge customer feedback silos and make sure that each part of the organization can access and analyze customer data. Automation can facilitate analysis: Text and sentiment analytics can help mine information from huge data sets, helping you understand who uses which interaction channels and when and why they use them.

Remember to establish measurable objectives and to continually refine them until they're met. If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.

Silos exist, but that doesn't mean that customers have to suffer. Quite the contrary: If you get the entire organization on the same page by prioritizing a customer experience department structure, you might in fact engender customer loyalty.

Explore how Verizon's contact center and customer experience solutions can help your organization create a seamless experience across customer touchpoints.