What customers want is the fastest and most direct route to having their issues resolved. What they often experience, however, is a scavenger hunt.
You probably remember scavenger hunts, even if you don’t have children. Everyone gets a clue to start off, and then has to go off in search of a specific item. When they find it, they get another clue, which takes them somewhere else. This goes on until they finally find a prize at the end.
A scavenger hunt is fun when you’re free to spend your free time on a mysterious, rewarding pursuit. When you’re a customer looking for help, however, you don’t want to keep getting sent from place to place. That’s just proof of how siloed an organization has become.
You don’t even have to physically travel anywhere to run into silos. They’re what happen when one part of a company doesn’t speak to the other, and it’s up to you as the customer to piece things together.
These are examples of what you might hear when you reach out through just a single channel — the telephone — that expose the silos damaging the customer service operation:
“I’m sorry. That’s not our department.”
“You’ll have to go back to the store and have them address your issue in person.”
“This is the wrong number. You’ll have to hang up and call this other number instead.”
“We can’t help you with that over the phone. You can only do that via email or our website.”
Silos can crop up within a company for many reasons, but when they do, it creates the exact opposite of the customer experience you should be trying to deliver.
Instead of putting the customer at the centre of everything you do, you’re keeping them outside — almost like they’re walking around the perimeter of a castle and looking for the drawbridge to come in.
Let’s put it another way: just when a customer is in greatest need of your help, you’re forcing them to figure out where the silos exist in your company and knock on multiple doors before they get to the one with the answers they’re looking for.
Fortunately, this all hints at the best way to get rid of silos and bring the focus back to top-notch customer service.
It’s easy to get caught up in the worst-case scenarios, but go back to what you might have originally imagined would happen when a customer needed to talk to an agent.
Literally map out in bullet points the steps someone would take, starting with choosing their preferred channel and making the initial contact. Continue looking at what is most likely involved in a typical service interaction, up to the point where they end it fully satisfied.
Lots can go wrong here, of course, but that’s why your next step should be:
Sometimes companies assume their customers will know their processes as well as they do. In the real world, however, mistakes happen.
Customers reach out to the sales department instead of the service team. Even the marketing team might get unexpected questions or complaints from customers.
If this happens, what typically happens next? For example, if the customer contacts marketing, does the marketing team know the best way to get the customer to the appropriate agent or other resource? If not, you’ve found a silo — which is better than your customer finding it first.
Silos like this aren’t just groups of people, but channels as well. If your customer decides to look for help via social media, can they get it? What about if they text? Understand the likely outcomes when they use unexpected or multiple channels to seek assistance.
Now that that’s done, you should:
In some respects, this is really just a case of connecting the dots with data.
Often customer data exists in multiple places across the company, but it’s not always the same data. There might be different purchase histories listed for the same customer between one department and another, for instance. That makes it hard to really help them.
Look for an area where there might be a lack of integration between customer data sources and use the right tools, like a CRM, which can become a single source of truth for the entire company.
Make sure you also look for opportunities to arm teams that are normally separated with tools that make it easier to communicate and collaborate. That way, when a service issue is escalated, it’s faster and easier for coworkers to check with each other.
Instead of a silo, in other words, you’re creating a sort of service hub, where the customer journey is accelerated rather than stalled.
Most likely this won’t be a one-time exercise but something you should do periodically, in case information gets walled up in silos again.
Think of it as a sort of customer service audit, where you make sure you’re creating an effective flow of information that will offer the kind of experience that satisfies or even exceeds expectations.
Remember that the goal doesn’t always have to be to reach an agent. You can also use this approach to discover where self-service capabilities, like a chatbot or an online customer portal, might be the better option.
As with any important company initiative, of course, it's important to measure your success. You can use a lot of your existing customer service metrics to do so. With fewer silos, for example, average call times in a contact centre should go down. And areas like first call resolution should improve too.
Over time, you might also see that getting rid of silos leads to a boost in your customer satisfaction (CSAT) or customer effort scores (CES). If you use Net Promoter Score (NPS), meanwhile, eliminating silos could help that inch up too.
No matter what metrics you use, you should stay on top of silos in customer service because it’s the right thing to do — for you, but more importantly, for your customers.