The Sydney Customer360 Forum this week has been an eye-opener, hearing all about how companies are managing their way through the customer experience landscape. At an event like this, there are a range of people and companies present, bringing all the accompanying diversity you might expect. But it was the similarities that rang true for me. Not least the way people described the paths they were on when putting customer experience programs in place, nor the way many are still struggling with businesses designed around functional silos.
I’ve always thought this last bit was odd. I mean, I know it makes sense to have functional specialties. This helps to create efficiencies by ensuring the skills are collected in one place to provide certain services, right? Only it seems to me that as businesses have grown and grown, and merged and acquired and grown a bit more that the cracks between these functional silos have widened a bit. Did I say cracks? I meant crevasses. Or maybe even chasms. Canyons!
I always remember a comment made by a business customer from a few years back. We were doing a B2B study amongst key accounts and this one fellow was praising how nice the client representatives were whilst noting the gaps between our functional silos. He said, “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Both are charming, but they’ve never met.” It’s stuck with me ever since and I’m reminded of it again today, hearing others describe the same symptoms of the same root causes.
And here’s the part that remains odd to me, more than 10 years later – just as it was then, the customer is too often the glue between departments in an organization. Not the systems or processes supporting the organization – the customer! Why is this still the case so often? How many times have you had to call a company only to have to explain your situation two or three times to two or three different people until one of them can figure out how to help you? Is it me? May be it’s me – but I’m betting it’s not.
So it’s a funny turn of events that has seen organizational structures designed to create efficiencies for the business – on the one hand – lead to the creation of inefficiencies for the customer on the other. And it’s funnier still that new IT systems are often being designed to plug the gap – by showing disparate teams their combined impact on the customer experience despite the best of intentions all round.
Where do we go from here? Is this heading towards the customer experience equivalent of matrix management? The silos need to remain as there is too much process and pain invested in their creation (maybe?), but the secondary business structure that is needed to support the customer – that’s coming from another source altogether. Sometimes from software systems tying it all together, sometimes in other ways. I heard a great story of one company creating cross-functional teams, mixing people from marketing and IT into one team designed to support the customer in a more end-to-end manner. It’s an approach we always recommend at Confirmit, and while it was bumpy to begin with, they’re now seeing the benefits. It’s a brave new world.
No more silos.