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Demolish Silos to Build Up the Customer Experience

  • Annette Franz
May/June 2017

Is your organization suffering from silo-itis? Although this may seem like an ailment from which only employees suffer, silos absolutely affect your customers as well. When an organization is siloed, key information goes unshared, cross-functional processes and communications are a mess, and employees throughout the organization can’t focus together on executing the customer experience strategy. Worse yet, when silos exist, the customer’s end-to-end experiences with the company are fragmented and often painful.

Breaking down silos means that data flows freely across the business, without any barriers. This can be a difficult thing to do, especially in large organizations. Some people will even argue that silos are a good thing, and in some contexts, that may be true—but not when it comes to executing a seamless customer experience.

Cloud service provider NewVoiceMedia recently published a whitepaper that defined three different types of silos:

  • Operational silos—functionally based: This may be one of the most common silos we think of. It refers to various departments within an organization being unconnected, employees not talking to one another, and teams not acting in a uniform way.
  • Channel silos—interaction based: These types of silos describe the typical experience customers have when they interact with the multiple channels of a single business. (Think visiting your internet provider’s website to get a problem solved, asking your question to its chat function, not having your issue resolved properly, phoning the internet provider instead, getting disconnected halfway through your discussion, calling back, having your request escalated to yet another customer service representative, and so on.) Firms can make it extremely difficult for customers to interact with them. And when businesses don’t act and speak in one voice, customers feel like they have to start anew whenever they shift to another channel.
  • Hierarchical silos—organizational-level based: This occurs when team members are either inhibited or actively discouraged from engaging senior leaders without going through protocols and channels.

Each of these situations perpetuates or becomes the root cause of data silos, systems silos, metrics silos, and the like. NewVoiceMedia proposed some solutions, one of which was hiring a chief customer officer (CCO) to lead and oversee customer experience efforts across departments, business units, and the entire organization. This person champions the voice of the customer everywhere; ensures there is a focus on the customer; gets departments and business units speaking and sharing information openly; and creates an environment that encourages collaboration, teamwork, trust, open communication, and a one-company approach. This is a lofty goal, no doubt, but it certainly is something any business should consider.

Following are some tools that will help the CCO achieve these goals:

  • Governance structure: Without a governance structure in place, silo thinking is perpetuated, and the company likely will fail to achieve cross-functional alignment, involvement, and commitment. A governance structure outlines the roles and responsibilities associated with the customer experience strategy and determines who is going to ensure that there is alignment and accountability across the organization.
  • Journey maps: Maps done right allow— nay, force—companies to collaborate, share, communicate, understand the customer experience, link the employee to the customer, and more.
  • Guiding principles: Guiding principles unite an organization in a unique way. They are beliefs or philosophies that lead the business through everything it does. They also help employees understand what’s right and what’s wrong, outline how to act and behave, and help with decision-making.

Some silos are good, but most are not. The key is getting everyone to work together— sharing and collaborating for a common purpose. That’s when a truly seamless customer experience can be attained.

Annette Franz is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc., a boutique consulting firm specializing in laying the groundwork required to establish a CX strategy that will drive your culture transformation efforts. She may be contacted at

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  1. Graeme Barnes May 17, 2017, 11:46 PM
    A topic dear to my heart. Silos and the lack of communications between them are a major cause of problems in many organisations. We need to breakdown the them and us attitude that silos cause if we want to improve productivity, efficiency and customer service
  2. Annette Franz May 19, 2017, 03:32 PM
    Thanks, Graeme. "Them and us" attitude is a great way to summarize silos. That attitude (anywhere) is harmful, at best.

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