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Customer Experience And Silos

by David Brock on March 5th, 2012

We organize our companies by function–sales, marketing, customer service, finance, manufacturing, development, an so on.  I suppose the management science guru’s thought it the most efficient way to organize and run a company.  Each function has their goals and performance measures, each naturally optimizes what they do to achieve those goals.  The senior executive team seeks to make sure the sum of each function’s performance enables the organization to achieve it’s goals.  It’s a model that works pretty well.

But then there’s the customer.  The customer may first become aware of our companies through our marketing outreach.  It may be an ad, commercial, something they heard from another customer, an email, or a search result from Google.  They first start to get to know us through our marketing messages.  Marketing executes their strategies–engaging the customer based on their plans and programs, all designed to optimize marketing’s attainment of their objectives.

They get more interested, they reach out, “We’re interested in your products and services…”  Sales jumps in.  They engage the customer and work with them through their buying process.  At the end of that process they like what the sales person has done, they say, “We want to do business, we want to buy…..”  Sales has worked with the customer, achieving their goals.  The sales process, the overall model is optimized by the sales function–achieving it’s goals, hitting the numbers, maximizing productivity.

Order entry gets involved, perhaps our legal department, if there are contract, other functions get involved.  The order is eventually placed, the customer may deal with our shipping departments, or possibly our implementation and delivery teams.  We have our order management, contracting and other processes—all well tuned efficient in their operations and workflow.

Then finance sends them the bill, the customer starts dealing with a receivables person in paying the bill.  Finance is very efficient–after all they are really numbers driven.  The billing, collection and all other functions are well tuned organizations.

Our customers buy the product, pay for it, now they are using it.  They have a problem or question.  They call customer service.  Customer service is responsive.  They work with the customer to solve the problem.  The customer may have waited on hold for a while, the customer may have had to call back a couple of times, perhaps dealing with different people, but their problem is solved.  Customer service has met their problem resolution metrics, their turn around time.

Our organizations are working as we designed them.  Each function is efficient, effective, meeting it’s performance goals and objectives.

Then the customer needs to buy more.  They start their cycle again—we send them back go “Go,” they don’t get to collect $200 and they go through the same experience again, it may be a little faster, slightly different because they know us and we know them.  But they walk through our functions and silos.

Things are changing, customers aren’t feeling comfortable with their experience with us, they think, something has to be different, they start considering alternatives, or suggesting we change our approaches.

The problem with customer experience today, is we’ve designed customer experience around the efficient operation of each function in our company’s  organization.  We’ve designed the experience to focus on each silo achieving their goals, operating efficiently and effectively.

The problem is, this customer experience design isn’t very customer focused.  It’s internally focused on our own structures, functions, and operations.

Customers are questioning this design, they are questioning their experience.  They are wondering why the experience is optimized for us and not them.  They are challenging us, “Shouldn’t you be optimizing my experience?”  They are voting with their pocketbooks, working  with suppliers who create great customer experiences.

We’re all struggling.  We recognize  customer experience has to  be designed for the customer, not for us.  We’re struggling with understanding what great customer experience means and how to organize ourselves to deliver it.  We struggle with what it means to our own operations–what’s the impact on our effectiveness and efficiency?  What’s it mean to our growth and profitability?

Creating great customer experience—based on the experiences customers want is not in conflict with the efficient, effective and profitable operations of our own companies.  We can create and deliver great customer experience while meeting our goals–after all, that’s also in the customer interest.

The only issue is the design point.  Great customer experience design starts with the customer, not with our internal operations.  If we start our design from an outside-in perspective, we can simultaneously created differentiated customer experience and have lean, efficient and effective operations.

It’s only a matter of where you start.

  1. Such a great post, yes there is a silo war going on among most companies, at the end of the day it is about our the P&L silos, sometimes we forget without a customer our companies would not exist.

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