Roadblocks to Epic Customer Experiences: Organizational Silos, Conflicting KPIsAfter giving a presentation recently on epic customer experiences, I was asked, “If customer experience is so critical, why do so many companies still suck at it?” Though lighthearted, I think the question deserves serious attention. That’s why I’m kicking off a three part series on the key obstacles that hinder companies from delivering the experiences customers want.

Digital customer experience is the new differentiator among similar brands and products. The quality of your mobile and online interactions can determine whether a visitor abandons your site for a competitor, switches to a mobile site or app, or gives up altogether. Research shows this is very costly for businesses in the short and long term: Not only do you lose an immediate sale or client, you lose their continued engagement and possible loyalty.

So why do so many brands still face usability problems, make poor first impressions, lose touch across different purchase phases, and fail to integrate online and offline services? The first key roadblocks are organizational silos and conflicting key performance indicators (KPIs).

How Silos and Differing KPIs Will Slow You Down

Company X keeps its marketing and sales departments separate, and measures and motivates their progress with different goals and rewards. The marketing silo is busy measuring social media engagement and publishing thought leadership, while the sales silo is optimizing and tracking landing page conversions. The efforts from marketing may be influencing and enabling conversions, but they never see the sales data, focusing instead on followers and readership.

A Forrester Research study found that:

Many firms take a piecemeal approach to delivering digital capabilities, with competing functional groups all vying for digital supremacy and each group seeking to optimize a specific aspect of digital business: sales, interactive marketing, social media, loyalty, CRM, etc. The result? Slower and diminished delivery of next-generation customer experiences.”

How exactly do business silos manifest in poor customer experiences? The two examples below demonstrate just some of the ways customer experience is negatively impacted by a lack of team spirit.

1. Customers see irrelevant offers that don’t speak to their needs.

GE Healthcare initially experienced the negative effects of silos when they created their Performance Solutions unit “to sell consulting services packaged with imaging equipment as integrated solutions.” The package was attractive to customers, but the equipment salespeople -- working in a separate unit from Performance Solutions -- weren’t versed in the value of consulting. When they made their usual outbound calls, they didn’t know how to sell the additional service, and “were reluctant to allow Performance Solutions salespeople to contact their customers.” In the end, GE could only truly offer its customers solutions after they had solved the knowledge and communication barriers between units.

GE Healthcare’s sales speedbump parallels what happens to digital customer experiences when silos prevent cooperation: the customer doesn’t receive all the information and value that might set you apart from competitors and help them trust in your service the next time around.

The Remedy:

GE Healthcare decided to stop viewing solutions “through the lens of its own products” and see them from the customer’s perspective. This meant realigning their sales units to emphasize consulting services -- what most customers wanted -- over specific GE equipment. When each unit takes a customer-centric approach, companies as a whole can transcend silos and find themselves working toward a shared sales goal with greater precision and efficiency.

2. Customers get mixed messages and irrelevant information

In some cases, a company’s internal silos are reflected in the design and navigation of websites and mobile apps. Gerry McGovern wrote about a time his team tested a website full of vague and confusing headings. When asked why the company had sections titled “Resources,” “Tools” and “Solutions,” they responded that each was for a “special unit of the organization.” Each unit preferred to have their own section because this made content easier to manage. But it made things harder for visitors, who couldn't find the information they actually wanted, or move smoothly toward engagement.

The Remedy:

Your web environment should be seamless and networked, with all content working in concert to provide a valuable, friction-free customer experience. As McGovern says, “... the first rule is to think network, not silo.” Make sure the various departments within your organization understand and share the same objectives.

Imagine if PR is producing web content, sales is referring customers to documents and downloads, and marketing is pushing to optimize with specific links and videos. One is looking at unique views, another at bounce rates and another geography, and each has their own compartmentalized “section” on your website. Now imagine if all three were being evaluated on the same prioritized KPI (increasing mobile readership, for example). They might naturally begin to work together.

Customer-Driven KPIs Break Down Silos, Lead to Seamless Customer Experience

Thanks to today’s digital platforms, marketers can follow the often complex and cyclical path of customers from advertisement and content, to contact, engagement, sale and loyalty. Furthermore, they can analyze the motivation and cost of each step. Harness this information to help each unit see their job as part of a seamless customer experience. Take a single individual view of customers across channels, and support it with unified KPIs that transcend silos. And if you’re just starting out, don’t get overwhelmed: start in a focused area or customer segment and work toward near-term goals with long-term vision.

Title image by Andrey Bayda (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Check back next Monday for the second set of roadblocks. In the meantime, read Loni's 3 Keys to a Competitive Content Marketing Strategy: Message, Medium, Membership