As the business world settles into 2018, practical wisdom says that higher levels of customer satisfaction and retention lead to higher revenues, and the biggest obstacles to increased customer satisfaction are the silos within your own business practices. This isn’t a new perspective. In 2015, The Economist reported that 63 percent of executives surveyed said that silos within their organization and a lack of integrated information systems were their two biggest obstacles to improving the customer experience. However, two years later, not much had changed; Dimension Data’s 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report still reported that 59 percent of channels were managed in silos, and 44 percent of survey respondents thought that omni-channel adoption would be too difficult to implement.
So how can your business get ahead of the curve, break down the silos, and breathe new life into your customer experience?
What Is a Silo?
The word “silo” is fairly descriptive; one tends to envision a large, almost completely enclosed structure where materiel is stored. Make this concept figurative, not literal, and make the materiel specifically your company and customer data, and there you have a great visualization of the organizational silo. While many different types of silos have been described, three are perhaps most relevant:
- Channel silos: Customers can use multiple channels to contact a company, but because data can’t be gathered across channels, customers have to start from square one every time they approach a company.
- Operational silos: A company’s departments are not connected so as to encourage free and easy sharing of data or basic communications.
- Data or systems silos: All the data collection, customer service, and operational functions of a company exist within different systems that were most likely built and/or acquired at different times and are not designed to share data. It’s been estimated that companies today have as many as 30 application sources across customer, employee, and product data areas.
This doesn’t even include the latest channels of customer interaction, which may only worsen the silo problem. Many companies merely add channels as they become necessary, developing a separate silo with different communication streams for each one.
Therefore, the snowball effect of siloing, the missed CX opportunities it leads to, and the resultant increase in customer frustration could be said to affect every major KPI, including customer churn, revenue leakage, and lower NPS scores. Here are a few basic and necessary steps to addressing each of these types of silos.
- Work from the Top Down
When you read that list of silos, you could probably understand why so many CX professionals find this topic so daunting. Addressing widespread operational issues requires commitment from the highest levels of the operation; any company-wide transformation will be almost impossible to achieve without prioritization by your top brass. Your chances for success improve when leadership models the desired new behaviors and sets specific, achievable goals for integration across silos. In addition, leadership should expect to regularly review the integration plan and invest in company-wide CX efforts.
- Create and Embed a Compelling Vision
Once leadership is engaged, it’s time to craft a meaningful CX vision that aligns with general business objectives as well as the overall company brand. This vision should provide clear direction for prioritizing efforts and minimizing the risk of any conflicting departmental priorities. Guiding principles can provide information about CX best practices and help employees understand their roles and desired actions. Distribute these principles across the company, making them part of daily culture, and make sure this vision is adequately reflected in your onboarding.
- Involve Cross-Functional Teams
Now the rubber hits the road. Other than deploying technical solutions (which we’ll get to in a minute), your biggest challenge is to get this organizational and cultural sea change to stick. Your teams must actually stop functioning in silos; their mindset must be to collaborate and communicate with other departments as a unified organization, all working toward the same goal of providing customers with an excellent experience. Develop a formal governance structure to indicate how people, roles, and responsibilities will change to better support integration efforts. Include plans showing how different teams can and should interact to build upon customer insights and statistical analysis to make better decisions. Make CX educational efforts available to all employees, and include customer metrics in overall company goals.
- Employ a Technological Solution
As you may have noticed when we defined silos, the multichannel approach, with its focus on maximizing channel efficiency, is not enough. Omni-channel puts your customer, not your silos, at the center of your business. And to make omni-channel successful, full access to company data for all relevant employees is the key to infusing life into your customer experience.
Incorporating orchestration tools and customer engagement solutions like VHT Navigator can collect interaction data from all channels, breaking down silos and increasing visibility into
the customer journey, behaviors, and preferences. Navigator creates a single system of record, providing complete visibility into your data and the opportunities that exist across the totality of your enterprise.