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How Understanding Cross-Org Silos Leads to Better Customer Experiences
Why marketing (and Sales, Operations and Support…) can have a hard time seeing the “big picture.”
Managing the customer experience is often thought of as the domain of those parts of the business that deliver the experience. Those with the greatest intimacy or connection with customers on a day-to-day basis. And while each group – marketing, sales, and support – does it’s best to serve the customers it interacts with, each is often unaware of the ways customers interact with other groups.
This is at the heart of a “disconnected customer experience.” And it happens because most businesses of scale are complex, and each of these functions operates in their own silo, approaching the customer experience problem from the perspective of their own domain.
Yet from the customer’s perspective, it’s not about the quality of the experience at any one stage of the lifecycle – though a poor experience at any stage is likely to cause defection – it’s about the quality, connectedness and seamlessness of the experience across the entire lifecycle, and all channels.
This is why one of the first steps to drive an organization-wide view of the customer is understanding what each functional group is doing now, and how that can be a barrier to a holistic view of the customer.
Marketing: Awareness and Acquisition.Chartered with brand and awareness building, Marketing is deeply involved with customer wants and needs, and their experiences early in the customer lifecycle. And while critically important, this understanding doesn’t always translate into knowing customer’s wants and needs later in the lifecycle. Which is why many marketing-driven efforts we’ve been asked to work on focus on things like brand perception, buyer’s journey or path-to-purchase initiatives.
Sales: Closing the Deal.Focused on securing the customer’s commitment to purchasing your company’s products and/or services, Sales – like Marketing – has a deep understanding of customer wants and needs, but often limited to the purchase stage of the lifecycle. Yet from the customer’s perspective, we often hear that transitioning from marketing to sales can feel like they are interacting with two different companies due to the disparity that exists with these experiences.
Operations: Delivering and Managing Products, Services and Finances.Charged with fulfilling customer orders, returns, and managing collections and refunds, this organization is accountable for ensuring that these experiences are simple, intuitive and friction-free. Like Sales and Marketing, Operations has a deep understanding of the customer during ‘their’ stage of the lifecycle, but isn’t as often concerned with what that experience is like upstream or downstream from their involvement.
Support: The Answers People.Responsible for assisting customers with the use or implementation of your products and/or services, Support is also there to help when things don’t work as expected. In recent years, many support organizations have shifted from a “deflective” strategy to a more customer-centric model, solving problems and sending customer feedback to other business groups in hopes that the problems will be solved those responsible. Yet still, the lack of an upstream view can impede their ability to drive change outside their area.
Seeing the big picture: Sharing the customer perspective across your organization.
The end result of this logical, functional orientation to customer experience is that leaders in these organizations can have a hard time seeing across the business, and their natural bias can create challenges when they attempt to do so. Ironically, a major business unit not described above – IT – has the greatest potential to see the cross-org experience. Yet they are the least connected to the actual customer, and typically have little or no view into the customer’s experience.
The bottom line is that getting an end-to-end, “outside-in” view of the customer experience across all stages of interaction and across all functional organizations in your business is a critical step to delivering a better end-to-end customer experience. Some of the more common ways to do so include things like Voice-of-the-Customer (VoC) programs and Customer Journey Mapping – both key elements of any successful customer experience management program.
Because what these programs share – and what customer experience leaders know – is that bringing the customer perspective to bear and widely sharing it across the organization is one of the most critical steps in improving customer experience. That’s because when it comes to customer experience, whatever the customer believes to be true is true. It’s up to you to understand what those beliefs are – and work across your organization to identify, share and close the cross-journey gaps they point you to.