Customer experience success demands cross-functional collaboration from leaders in marketing, sales, product, service and more. And customer experience leaders often report the biggest challenge in delivering results is the silos in their organizations.

Silos show up not just in organizational structure, but also in the ways data is housed, how technology is implemented and the way permissions prevent visibility into the customer journey. All these silos disrupt the customer’s experience, leading to unfulfilled promises and customer frustration.

Poor customer experiences lead to poor business outcomes like declining retention rates, increased service costs and poor word-of-mouth marketing. Silo-busting should be in the job description of not just customer experience leaders, but leaders throughout the organization. Yet it’s often not addressed even by the savviest C-Suite executives.

Why Is Silo-Busting so Challenging? 

Leaders in today’s workplace are often asked to, frankly, “stay in their lane.” Teams are encouraged to solve problems specific to their operations and processes. It’s rare to see leaders reviewing issues from the holistic view of the customers and their journeys.

But when silos get in the way, everyone loses. Customers feel neglected. Data is ignored. Employees are frustrated. And, ultimately, business results suffer.

Let’s take a look at common areas where silos prevent success and what to do about them.

A Lack of Communication Creates Silos

Marketing makes promises based on the knowledge of what’s coming up for customers. Sales is pressured to make the sale. And customer service is left answering to customers who feel like they’re on a rocky journey.

If we ask leaders to put their heads down and stay in their lanes, we’re asking for trouble. 

One common missing piece is a universal description of customer experience success. It’s not enough to tell leaders to simply be customer-centric or announce a goal of “exceeding customer expectations” when those well-intentioned goals are not defined with meaningful definitions and metrics for success. 

Cross-functional communication is much easier when leaders all agree on a universal goal. If collaboration and stepping out of one’s lane will create better outcomes for everyone, leaders are more likely to feel empowered in both reaching out and receiving communication around these shared goals.

The good news is that when teams do collaborate, everyone wins. CX teams that collaborate cross functionally are 27% more likely to have a high or very high return on investment (ROI) in their CX program, according to the 2022 State of CX Report from GetFeedback.

Related Article: Building a Gold Standard for Consumer Trust

Data Silos Make Everything More Difficult

This might be the biggest challenge most organizations have. Centralizing customer data and aligning it with operational data is critical in delivering personalized experiences.

Customers use the chat feature online. Then they get frustrated and call the customer service number. They don’t want to be greeted with “What can we do for you today?” They want their journey to be seen and understood so they can receive proactive, personalized support. 

Unfortunately, data silos mean contact center agents and other frontline employees are left with little or no customer data visibility. Consider how many agents don’t have customer data because it’s housed in a different part of the organization. While they should have access to customers’ past purchases or most recent service interactions, they should also see any overall feedback metrics the customer has provided. This more complete view of the customer helps the brand provide better service and in turn increases the likelihood of retaining the customer.

Customers tell us they expect personalization now. According to a report from McKinsey & Company, a large majority (71%) of consumers expect personalization. The only way to deliver this is by strategically connecting customer data and providing visibility to those who need it at the right time.

Learning Opportunities

Technology and Tools Themselves May Create Silos

Supply chain management has long been relegated to a silo in many organizations. The reality of what supply chain disruptions can do to customer journeys, employee efficiencies and product development hit companies hard in the last few years. 

It’s a best practice to proactively communicate with customers on delays or other disruptions. This requires information and communication before the customer is reporting a missing product or delay. Yet technology silos often leave customer experience leaders in the dark when it comes to these disruptions. This makes it impossible to proactively communicate with customers or to prepare staff for the influx of complaints headed their way.

Supply chain management might use one technology. Customer service has another. If these solutions are not connected at least enough to provide back-and-forth visibility, it’s difficult to stay ahead of the customer journey.

Smart planning means not just addressing the long-term issues within the supply chain itself, but also planning for what happens to the customer experience when those disruptions occur.

Better yet, customer experience leaders, customer support and other frontline teams like in-store employees and repair technicians have visibility into where products are in the supply chain journey. Expectations and promises are then adjusted based on this real-time information.

Related Article: Put Your Thing Together for an Awesome Customer Experience 

Silo-Busting Is Serious Business

We know that collaboration means better results. We know that customer data should be centralized and visible. We know that technology can provide more real-time information across the enterprise.

Legacy systems, outdated processes and too much inside-out thinking makes it challenging to truly break up these silos.

There are places to start and things to do. Here are a few questions for you to consider at your organization:

  1. Does everyone agree on the common, specific definition of what success looks like for the customer experience? If not, silos will pop up around various goals and understandings.
  2. Are there regular ways to connect and collaborate around the end-to-end, holistic customer experience? Ideally, a CX team of cross-functional leadership would connect regularly.
  3. Where’s your customer data? If feedback data is kept separately from operational data, which is separate from customer service interaction data, you definitely have a silo problem. Business intelligence means connecting these data points to gain real insights.
  4. What parts of the customer journey impact the parts you own? Evaluate what comes before product delivery or service and ensure there’s visibility. Ask for the right permissions to see what’s critical for real-time information.
  5. Finally, what results do you want? This is an incredibly important question that often gets left unanswered. Define the desired business results and how cross-functional collaboration, data centralization and overall visibility can help drive those results.

Silos won’t go away overnight. But collaboration has to start somewhere. Focus on the customer experience and make the case to bust up silos wherever possible.