Got it made with loyalty programs, voice-of-the-customer, first contact resolution, and CRM (customer relationship management)? Get a close look at the cost-benefit ratio, and an even closer look at the portion of those costs incurred to deal with your company’s and partners’ mis-steps that originated outside of your customer-facing staff’s control. Those mis-steps likely started off as noble intentions. Nonetheless, the net-net is a lot of potential value gobbled up inadvertently. Incongruent intentions are the product of incongruent goals, also known as goal silos. Goal silos are unpleasant surprises — gotchas — in customer experience management ROI (return on investment).
As explained in the article 10 Silos Impact Customer Experience:
Customer-facing staff have customer experience goals, but staff that doesn’t interface with customers typically do not see a connection of their work to customer experience; they’re focused on productivity or other internal criteria. In customers’ minds, this means products, processes, policies and business models that don’t always respect customers’ expectations.
Touch-points: It’s tempting to think of customer experience management as something to be done directly to or for customers by customer-facing staff and customer touch-points. Of course that’s important, but it’s only part of the equation toward the lucrative business results you’re seeking.
The gotcha: Customer-facing staff and touch-points act as a buffer for incongruent handoffs upstream. The thorniest customer experience issues are caused by those who are not customer-facing. These recurring costs are diverting resources that could otherwise be dedicated to greater value creation. A major goal for customer experience management should be minimization of buffer situations. This can only happen if this goal is shared across every functional area and every managerial level. Extend it to your suppliers, alliances, and channels for optimal results.
Scores: It’s tempting to assign customer survey score goals to departments, managers, or individuals. Of course, continual improvement in survey ratings is desirable and noble. But it’s putting the cart before the horse. This type of goal silo-izes “means” from “ends”.
The gotcha: Customer survey score goals can paint a mirage over what’s really happening, and stifle business growth expected from customer experience management. It’s like focusing on a clothing size reduction (i.e. an “end” result): the truth is that you actually have to make a concerted effort on specific things (i.e. “means”) that will lead to that. If you’ve correctly identified root causes, you will see highest ROI by focusing effort on the means. Then de-silo by showing how the means affects the end.
Products: It’s tempting to focus on a business unit or product line independently. Improvements must be championed at that level, of course, but product-silo customer experience management is at odds with customers’ multi-product purchase realities.
The gotcha: Customers can get overwhelmed by multiple business units asking for surveys, enrolling them in loyalty programs, etc. Customer experience management is intended to make the total experience better, not cause pain in the course of trying to measure/facilitate it. Seeing things as customers see them is the magic of customer experience management: the point is to gain competitive advantages through holistic insights that drive holistic business alignment with customers’ expectations.
Loyalty: It’s tempting to expect customer retention (relationship length) and loyalty (brand preference) to increase by assigning specific marketing programs to these ends. Enticements can boost immediate revenue, but may be lacking in long-term results or profitability. This type of goal silo-izes the “sizzle versus the steak” of customer experience management; it’s like putting lipstick on a pig.
The gotcha: Relationship length and brand preference must be earned rather than enticed — that is, if you want these business results to be profitable and enduring. Relying on marketing programs can cost a lot for fleeting success. You’re still vulnerable to competitors unless ease-of-doing-business is superior to the alternatives available to your customers. The “steak” of customer experience management is preventing mis-alignment of customers’ realities versus expectations across the entire customer life cycle.
Programs: It’s tempting to establish corporate goals and/or customer experience goals that cater to investors’ expectations. The silo-ization of financial versus customer experience goals is common practice across all industries and countries, but that does not make it a best practice.
The gotcha: Paying attention to investors’ expectations feels like “following the money” but in reality, customers are the primary source of money. Investors leave when customers leave, not vice versa. Therefore, customer experience goals should be a determinant of corporate goals as a means toward investors’ happiness. Connect the dots between cause-and-effect in your planning and reporting, and you’ll see a lot more progress in keeping everyone happy.
Heroes: It’s tempting to reward individuals for doing something awesome for customer experience management. It’s natural to show gratitude for saving the day, but individual silos obscure the teamwork required for consistent, reliable customer experience excellence.
The gotcha: Heroics can be expensive; you would not want your customer experience management strategy to rely on remedial efforts. First impressions are powerful and you do not always get the chance to save the day. Most likely there are numerous customers affected by a glitch, and heroics solve the situation for a tiny percentage of them. Collaboration with a preventive orientation is essential for sustained ROI in customer experience management.
Partners: It’s tempting to reward or penalize suppliers and alliance and channel partners on financial and timing goals rather than customer experience goals. Yet the necessity of seamless integration with these parties is certainly growing. These goal silos are outdated and are akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
The gotcha: Harmony across your entire value chain is essential in your quest to be the most preferred, fastest growing, and most profitable company in your industry. Shift to win-win policies and processes, and manage a tight ship by educating suppliers and alliance and channel partners about your customers’ realities and expectations. Create joint goals with them, emphasizing the means that each contributes toward your customer experience goals.
These gotchas are trip-ups ingrained in the way business is managed. As the aforementioned article noted:
“Businesses have multiple obligations: shareholders, industry analysts, customers, and so forth. It’s easy to dilute the over-arching importance of customers as the lifeblood of funding for all the business does. What’s missing for the customer experience [and your bottom line!] is getting things right the first time and all the time, as much as is humanly possible — preventing the need to rely so heavily on customer-facing staff and enticements.”
Take the opportunity at annual planning time, and in quarterly reviews, to re-set your goals. Rise above unhealthy goal silos by helping your executives and employees see how various types of goals work together. To prevent value from being gobbled up inadvertently, follow the money, execute the full equation, put the horse in front of the cart, manage a tight ship, and make the pig itself beautiful. Maximize your customer experience ROI by avoiding the gotchas of customer experience goal silos.
Images purchased under license from Shutterstock.
Originally published as an exclusive Advisors monthly column on CustomerThink.com as Customer Experience Goal Silos Are Gotchas.