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Is your organization suffering from silo-itis?
If you answered that question with a “yes,” you’re absolutely, 110% not alone. Unless your company was intentionally built from the ground up to not function in silos – and you’re lucky, and unique, if it was – then silos are an issue for you and for your customers.
We all know how detrimental silos can be not only to the customer experience but also to an organization. When the organization is siloed, information is not shared, the cross/multi/omnichannel experience is a mess, and the organization as a whole is not really focused on the end game. Cross-functional collaboration and involvement is needed to execute on your customer experience strategy. Breaking down silos means that data and information flow freely across the organization, without any barriers. When those silos exist, a customer’s end-to-end experiences with the organization are fragmented and painful.
I know that breaking down silos is a hard thing to do, especially in large organizations. And some would argue that silos are a good thing; in some contexts, that is true, but not when it comes to executing a seamless customer experience.
NewVoiceMedia recently published a whitepaper that defined three different types of silos:
- Operational silos – functionally based: this may be one of the most common ones we think of when we’re talking about organizations, as it refers to various departments not connected or talking to each other and organizations not acting in a uniform, one company way nationally or globally
- Channel silos – interaction based: customers have multiple channels with which to interact with most every company, but companies make it extremely difficult to do so without excessive effort on the part of the customer; companies don’t act and speak in one voice across channels. and customers feel like they start anew with the company any time they shift to another channel
- Hierarchical silos – organizational-level based: this type of silo occurs when team members are either inhibited or actively discouraged from engaging senior leaders without going through the correct protocols and channels, according to NewVoiceMedia
These silos perpetuate or become the root cause of data silos, systems silos, metrics silos, and more.
NewVoiceMedia proposed some solutions for breaking down the silos, including hiring a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), who will lead and oversee customer experience efforts across departments, business units, and the entire company. She will champion the voice of the customer throughout the organization, ensure that there is a focus on the customer, get departments and business units speaking and sharing information openly, and create an environment that encourages collaboration, teamwork, trust, open communication, and a “one company” approach. A lofty goal, no doubt.
A couple of tools that will come in handy to help the CCO achieve those goals include:
- Governance structure. Without a governance structure in place, we perpetuate silo thinking and fail to achieve cross-functional alignment, involvement, and commitment. A governance structure outlines people, roles, and responsibilities associated with your customer experience strategy. Who is going to ensure that there is alignment and accountability across the organization?
- Journey maps. Maps done right allow, nay, force companies to collaborate, share, communicate, understand the customer and experience, have a common understanding of the customer and the experience across the organization, link the employee to the customer, and more.
- Guiding principles. This might seem like a weird one; the other two are very tangible tools, and this one seems a bit softer. Guiding principles unite the organization in a different way: they are beliefs or philosophies that guide the organization through everything it does; they help employees understand what’s right and what’s wrong; they outline how employees are expected to act and behave; and they help employees make decisions and do the right thing.
Some silos are good; many are not. But the key here is really getting everyone to work together – sharing, collaborating – for a common purpose, a common goal. I don’t really have to tell you what that purpose is, do I?
Breaking down silos can spark innovation in unexpected ways. -Gillian Tett
It appears to be part of our nature to manage via silos and create aggressive behaviour between them.
On a positive note, it keeps those of us in the "improvement business" stacked with opportunities to improve.
But it can be a little wearing when you realise you are battling human nature.
Sometimes I do feel a little like Sisyphus.
I wonder if we could address some of the silo-itis, as you refer to it, if orgs took time to define and build an internal service culture?
I think that's a great suggestion. I realize none of it's easy – and the older and bigger organizations get, the harder it becomes. Have to start somewhere.
Yea, or as I like to say, it's like pushing a noodle uphill. You'll work so hard and make no progress. As both employees and customers, we know how it feels. Painful.