What do a ballet (or Broadway musical number) and a business have in common? All the players have integral parts choreographed to deliver a satisfying experience. When a player misses a cue or the choreography isn’t polished, all heck breaks loose. Such snafus are also known in business as silos — anything that operates in isolation.
Silos mean you’re out of sync with customer well-being. Silo costs include re-work, delays, scrap, morale, churn and lost opportunities for your company and for customers. It’s possible that most pain in business is caused by silos, affecting employee experience, customer experience, and shareholder experience alike.
On the flip side, absence of silos makes things smooth for everyone. People follow the path of least resistance. Accordingly, smoothness will win. In situations where silos must exist, find ways to bridge them. Silo-bridging is integral to customer experience excellence.
As explained in my 12-part series How to Solve Customer Experience Silos, you should seek ways to expand perspectives, motivations, collaboration and universality whenever a silo is identified. For customers, process silos mean extra reading, redundant interactions, and confusion about who to go to for what, another set of things to integrate into their already busy life.
It’s the job of customer experience management to drive smooth journeys and maximize value across the life cycle. Accordingly, it’s the role of customer experience managers to prevent process silos.
Here are 4 prerequisites to successful customer experience processes:
1st Prerequisite: Sync Workflows with Ease of Doing Business
Conduct an annual audit of workflows to identify anything that’s out of sync with ease of doing business for (a) your customers, (b) your channel partners, (c) your employees.
When you find something that’s a hassle, assess the ROI of fixing it in terms of consequences to your (a) customers, (b) channel partners, (c) employees, (d) financials.
Let the key recipients of a process’ outcomes have the loudest voice in the audit.
Start with the processes that touch customers, then work backward to the processes that touch those, and so on. Don’t exclude any process: they all count, or otherwise why are they being funded by customers?
As mentioned earlier, when a player misses a cue or the choreography isn’t polished, all heck breaks loose. Anything out of sync with ease of doing business is likely costing you a lot, with unconscious snowballing of costs. This is particularly true in the hierarchy from customers to channel partners to employees to investors. Typically we think of this hierarchy the other way around (starting with investors and ending with customers), but that doesn’t make sense: when things are hard for customers they end up putting further burden on the company, or they spread their purchases across more brands, or cease to do business with you.
2nd Prerequisite: Sync Short-Term with Long-Term
Make it clear everywhere in your company that short-term actions must sync with long-term objectives. Otherwise your carefully crafted ease-of-doing-business workflows are being sabotaged.
Make the hard choices as a manager to sync short-term with long-term. If it’s absolutely necessary to make an exception, be transparent about your rationale to do so.
Culture is a group’s ways of doing and thinking, so the short-term exceptions really have a huge impact on what your group interprets as what’s acceptable or not. Short-term choices play a stronger role on your culture than any long-term declarations.
Find ways to remind managers and employees at all levels and in every functional area to keep the short-term in-sync with the long-term.
3rd Prerequisite: Sync Customer Experience Efforts
Map the customer journey across your customer experience efforts and synchronize them to make sense and maximize value to customers.
Ironically, in our quest to manage customer experience we may inadvertently create higher expectations and establish process silos ourselves!
For example, consider voice of the customer. How many requests are made of the same customer annually among your advisory boards, user groups, relationship survey, transaction surveys, and so on? Furthermore, if a customer has just been asked to give feedback on something, is the timing right to independently ask them to engage in a loyalty program or expand their purchase, etc.? The costs of mis-matching requests and invitations may be higher than you think.
Customer experience management is intended to be a blessing to customers. Make sure your CXM is coordinated, without process silos, to create value for customers from their perspective.
4th Prerequisite: Sync Universality
Universality is “involving or being shared by all people or things in the world or in a particular group”. It’s “being true or appropriate in all situations”. (source: Google search definition)
Whenever something is assigned or created, build-in universality. It’s so much simpler and cost-effective to build-in universality than to correct the lack of it later.
Take the omni-channel conundrum for example. Syncing channels after they’re established is a huge job, requiring massive hours and funding for conversations with all involved parties, along with significant compromises and change management. If “omni” is built-in from the get-go, huge savings are gained. Ease-of-doing-business is built-in.
Universality requires collaboration and a keen sense of what customers define as “right the first time”. It’s harder and more time-consuming at the beginning, but you’ll always thank yourself for making universality integral to your company’s culture.
When all players hit their cues and the choreography is polished, any performance — on the theater stage or the business stage — is a satisfying experience people are eager to pay for, spread the word about, and keep coming back for more.
Originally published as an exclusive Advisors monthly column on CustomerThink.com as Preventing Customer Experience Process Silos: 4 Prerequisites.