“I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that problem. Let me transfer you to another department.”
*Cue eyeroll because now you have to repeat your story and account number, verify the last four digits of your social security number and date of birth, and answer security questions all over again.
We’ve all been there. Every organization has silos, but despite their universally frustrating nature, organizations tend to ignore the impact silos have on customers. From the outside, inaccessibility, unwillingness to share information, and self-centeredness across departments looks like low productivity, bureaucracy, and stress-induced migraines.
In order to improve your customer experience and circumvent the negative side effects of silos, you need to know what you’re up against. The first step is understanding exactly what types of silos are out there:
Department silos occur when various teams within a company provide conflicting information to customers, when departments are not keeping each other up-to-date on changes to company knowledge, or when various departments’ strategies interfere with each other.
User Phase Silos
Most companies now provide support to their customers at every stage of their journey. This level of dedication to customer support is great. The problem occurs when departments aren’t in communication regarding what stage the customer is in their buyer journey. Sales may end up trying to sell a customer a feature they already have, or giving them content that is far beyond their current understanding of your product. Either way, the customer becomes confused and frustrated.
Channel silos occur when various channels of customer service, most often phone, web, and store, are not in communication and do not work together to make operations as easy as possible for the customer. Ever ordered a shirt online, tried to return it to a store, and discovered your only choice is to ship it back? This is a classic example of a channel silo.
Perhaps the most frustrating sentence a customer could hear is, “That’s not my job.” Whether a department is placing blame on another for customer’s problem, genuinely uncertain of which types of customer issues are delegated to which department, or simply trying to avoid another project, handing off a customer from department to department will leave them feeling like a burden, not a priority.
Systems silos most often occur when there is a disconnect between a company’s mobile app and online services. In today’s world, your customers are probably just as busy as you are. What is the point of a mobile app that doesn’t offer the same level of exceptional support to your customers on the go?
Ventilate Your Silos
The silo types above are manifestations of just a few of the most common challenges in cross-departmental communication. But fortunately, we’re here to tell you that fixing these silos doesn’t require a full-blown demolition. You just need to install a ventilation system.
Here’s where we’re going to stray from the well-trodden path of the silos metaphor and say silos are not all bad (gasp). If you bust into a farm and take a sledgehammer to the farmer’s silos, he’s not going to be too happy with you. Why? Because the silos serve an important purpose: to keep all of the grain from spilling out. In the same way, organizations shouldn’t attempt to dismantle their departments. They are necessary structures to cultivate and utilize expertise.
However, silos require ventilation. The grain within needs to be exposed to the outside air. Otherwise, it becomes stale. This same condition applies to employees within each of your organization’s departments; if they are isolated from all company knowledge that exists outside their own department, their knowledge is limited and inhibits their ability to perform at maximum capacity.
Depending on the unique challenges that face your organization, you may be suffering from poorly ventilated silos. Get your grains some fresh air by ensuring your employees can share the most current information across departments. Your life will be easier, and more importantly, your customers will be satisfied and more likely to recommend your product or service.