One of the most profound discoveries from customer experience journey mapping is interdependencies across data, systems, channels, processes and people. Customers experience our companies horizontally. Accordingly, smooth handoffs between departments can make all the difference in poor versus great customer experience.
Handoffs are outcomes of your work that others depend upon. Handoffs can be sloppy or late, or fine-tuned and timely. Handoff silos happen when your work output doesn’t match its recipients’ needs. Handoff silos are gaps in timing or gaps in quality.
Interdependencies are horizontal along the customer experience journey. Interdependencies also exist vertically, from your suppliers and from work group to work group, all the way to customer-facing staff or customer touch-points, and then to customers. Either way, horizontally or vertically, there’s a direct impact or a ripple effect on customers.
Customer experience handoff silos hinder success by creating delays, scrap, frustration, stress, and costs. Your company suffers and customers suffer. The combined loss in opportunities is extensive. Conversely, customer experience handoff silos are the heart of success: get it right, and you prevent waste. Get it right, and you create opportunities for everyone.
The key to harnessing handoff silos is context.
Think of customers in the center of a circle, with touch-points and customer-facing staff making up the first ring around customers. Then picture successive rings representing all the processes and departments throughout your company. Now picture spokes connecting rings, representing the vertical interdependencies. Handoffs are rings and spokes. All revolve around the customer because customers pay our paychecks.
Harnessed handoff silos are a perfect indicator of profitable customer-centricity.
How does this work in practice?
1) Customer-Centric Job Descriptions
It all starts with each employee seeing their role in terms of “why should customers pay for my work?” Job descriptions are an employee’s first guide to what they need to do to get paid. For each responsibility, ask “why should customers care?” Then edit the description to reflect your answers. Customer-centric job descriptions help you hire and promote the right people necessary for your company’s success.
2) Customer-Centric Priorities
Prioritize job responsibilities by what’s most important to your primary target audience of customers. Typically, priorities of customer well-being are identified through customer experience research.
Moments of truth and key drivers of loyalty are these priorities. A moment of truth is any instance when customers are at-risk of abandoning their relationship with your company. A key driver of loyalty is a facet of the customer experience that is strongly correlated with customer ratings of their loyalty to your company.
For each of these priorities, “peel the onion” from customer touch-points successively to each ring of the circle described above. This can reveal guidelines for every job. This is the most significant use of customer experience research: aligning everyone to customers.
3) Internal Customer Experience Management
Bring the “peeled onion” to life by encouraging departments to ask their handoff recipients whether the handoffs are meeting recipients’ needs for timeliness and quality. Establish a cadence for these conversations and for keeping a pulse on recipients’ well-being. This can be done through internal customer satisfaction management or trusted adviser relationship-building. Include checks-and-balances to maintain the external customers’ priorities as context for internal customer satisfaction.
4) Customer-Centric Process and Policy Audits
Conduct audits at regular intervals of both external and internal processes and policies:
- What is at odds with customer well-being?
- What causes delays, scrap, frustration, etc.?
- How can universality be built-in?
- How can trust be nurtured?
5) Customer-Centric Alliances
Some of the most glaring handoff snafus are among your alliance partners, channel partners, and suppliers. Keep customers’ well-being at the center of these relationships, and you’ll find that other concerns will fall into place. Revise your criteria, agreements, staff incentives, habits, and attitudes.
6) Customer-Centric Employee Engagement
Engage employees in improving and innovating customer experience. This is the most noble intrinsic value among employees. Engagement for engagement sake is often viewed as busy work or waste. Engagement for the brand’s sake is often viewed as self-centered. Employee engagement in enhancing customers’ lives and making the company well-loved by customers is appealing to every employee and every stakeholder.
Customers are the great rallying point for everyone and everything. As the source of budgets and dividends, customers are the hand that feeds you. Customer-centered handoffs are the key to excellent customer experience because they embody data, systems, channels, processes and people. Get the handoffs right and you’ve got the whole enchilada right. Getting things right the first time, consistently, is the heart of profitable customer experience leadership.
Image purchased under license from Shutterstock.
Originally published as an Advisors monthly column on CustomerThink.com as Customer Experience Handoff Silos are the Heart of Success.
This is the 11th article in a 12-part series called Spanning Silos for Customer Experience Excellence: