I originally wrote today’s post for WixAnswers. It appeared on their blog on June 7, 2021.
We know that the customer experience is important to the success of any organization. Customers are king, and they vote with their wallets – and with their feet. It’s critical that the experience meets customers’ needs and expectations. Today, customers expect the experience to be simple, effortless, seamless, personalized, convenient, and fast.
To meet these expectations, everyone in the organization must be open and able to work together to deliver the experience. Specifically, conversations, information, and data must flow freely across teams and departments. Cross-functional collaboration is well-established, supported, and encouraged within and across the organization. But that doesn’t just happen on its own.
Sadly, more often than not, companies are siloed, and data, information, and knowledge sharing are limited to within an employee’s own team, if that. Collaboration is a real challenge. And for customers, that means that the experience is fragmented and painful.
But let’s think about silos for a minute. They are more of a mentality than a physical thing. There are no walls to keep one employee from talking to her colleagues in another department and from sharing what she’s working on with others. Then what’s going on here? Department leaders choose not to share information or to collaborate with other department leads; employees simply follow the behavior they see and hear from above.
How do you overcome this? How can you break down or connect silos so that employees can collaborate freely?
There are three foundational elements that must be in place to break down silos, to ensure collaboration is “the way things are done around here,” and to make sure customers have a consistent experience across the brand. What follows are the three elements described in a bit of detail.
1. A Customer-Centric Culture
You get the culture you design and/or allow. The shift to a customer-centric culture can only happen when the CEO is committed to deliberately designing it to be that way. In a customer-centric culture, there are no discussions, no decisions, and no designs without bringing in the customer voice, without first asking: How will this impact the customer? What value will it deliver for the customer? How will this help the customer? The CEO and other leaders in the organization must set the values, model the behaviors, and reinforce the behaviors and actions that address the answers to those questions.
This is important because, in a customer-centric culture, silos are connected or non-existent. By definition, a customer-centric culture is a collaborative culture. By definition, the entire organization rallies around the customer. By definition, the entire organization must work toward a common goal, to deliver a seamless and consistent experience for the customer. That cannot happen in a fragmented organization. This can only happen when everyone works together.
As part of your customer experience strategy, you’ve got to ensure that employees know their roles and responsibilities with regards to designing and delivering a great experience. Outlining program governance will guide employees through this work and ensure that they know how they must work together, not in silos. Governance includes the structures and the processes that are designed to ensure accountability, transparency, responsiveness, participation, and more as employees work to deliver the experience customers expect.
Governance has two parts to it: oversight and execution. Oversight is done by cross-functional committees, who drive action and accountability within their individual departments or teams, while execution, which is all about who and how the work will get done, falls under what I refer to as the operating model part of governance.
Governance committees bridge the gap and break down or connect the silos between teams, as these committees are cross-functional in nature and help to ensure that data-driven action plans are executed and outcomes are measured cohesively, in a collaborative fashion, across the organization. These committees get people working together, talking, sharing data, and driving change, thereby guaranteeing that the experience is seamless and consistent for customers at every interaction.
The operating model portion of governance further ensures that people know who is involved in the work, how it’s going to be done, and how it will be measured. It’s the bridge between the strategy and its execution, and it includes various components, including: people, processes, measurement framework, and tools and technology. That’s a good segue into the third element.
3. Technology to Support Collaboration
At the same time, a collaborative environment must be supported and facilitated with technology that allows employees to share feedback, data, information, learnings, and more across departments, channels, business units, etc.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re getting some feedback about your self-service channel. The feedback uncovers that customers are searching for help with a certain product issue. The CX team has to share the feedback with impacted teams in real-time in order to: get the issue fixed, update the self-service information, prepare the contact center for an uptick in calls, and get messaging out to customers apologizing for the issue and letting them know what’s being done, when, how, etc.
If you’ve kept count, that’s five different departments (CX, Product, Website, Customer Service, Marketing) involved in that one piece of feedback/data. If they don’t work together and coordinate not only issue resolution but also communication and messaging around the issue, the customer will be extremely frustrated. Having the right technology in place to ensure that these departments can work together, share information, and track progress is critical to getting that issue resolved quickly and without confusion about where it stands.
The customer experience isn’t just something that happens at the frontline or in face-to-face interactions. There is so much more to it than that. Every department must have a clear line of sight to the customer, and every department must be able to share feedback, data, and more with other departments to ensure the customer has the best experience possible. Only when you have these foundational elements in place can you ensure that you’ll deliver a seamless customer experience.
Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. – Ryunosuke Satoro
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2021, she wrote the manuscript for her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture that Drives Value for Your Business, which will be available in early 2022! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.