This is a guest post from Jeanne Bliss — customer experience expert and author of “I Love You More Than My Dog.” See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on her blog.

We all suffer from silo dysfunction.

Silo dysfunction is the inability or lack of collaboration inside the corporate machine to link together what it does for and to the customer. Working together is unnatural for people inside the corporate machine because they’re simply not led or motivated to do this.

Recognition has been within the individual silos. How many team awards have you seen that were truly meaningful? The metrics used to define success drive us more deeply into our own silo. Our inability to connect the operations of the corporate machine is widening the chasm between us and our customers. As we try (or don’t try) to figure out how to work together, customers sink further and further out of sight. Down they sink, into the quicksand we’ve created.

Customer Quicksand

Are you slipping into customer quicksand?

In most companies, each silo owns its cordoned-off part of its contact with customers, but that’s it. This leads to the fractured and incongruent experiences we deliver to customers. Today it’s not a customer experience we deliver — but rather our organization chart.

Customers are lost in the handoffs between our departments. We lose sight of them when they fall in the cracks between the silos. Because we don’t purposefully observe or measure how the customer traverses the jumbles of our organization, they sink deeper and deeper out of our viewfinder. And for the customer, we slip further and further away from any place they want to be associated with. We annoy customers in a seemingly orchestrated dim-witted chain of events as we make our attempts to serve them.

Each operating area needs its own goals and metrics for its function, but there must also be a connecting metrics that indicate how the customer navigates across the operation, across those silos.

Customer quicksand is borne out of three things we can’t seem to coordinate among ourselves

  1. Motivation – The Beacons People Follow
    People follow the path laid out before them by leaders that looks as if it will bring them the greatest reward. They want to know what is of the greatest importance to the organization and want to be a part of it. These messages are usually sent loud and clear, with little need to read the tea leaves and interpret what side your bread is buttered on. And although it’d be nice to think that customer focus is swimming in that butter, it’s usually not the motivating factor driving people to do their job.
  2. Metrics – How Success is Defined
    Metrics cast the culture. The metrics that are called for the most by leaders send a clear direction of where people should focus their efforts. Few organizations have clear customer metrics that elevate managing the customer to the same frenzied level as quarterly sales goals. Rarely are habit-forming customer-centric counts asked for. We simply don’t keep track of customers or have metrics to demand performance improvement in this area.
  3. Mechanics – The Customer Experience Across the Silos
    This is an indication of how well the corporate machine is oiled. It’s about our ability for passing the customer along our organizations. Mechanics refer to the lack of process that creates the pain and to the absolutely mind-numbing time we have in working together across the silos. Rarely can we connect the efforts to mean something to customers more than the sum of our parts. No matter how hard we try, we seem to lose the customer in the handoffs.

Most companies don’t think out these factors. As a result, the brand experience becomes the sum of all of the parts—some good and some not so good. Without collectively managing the impact from managing as siloed organizations, companies will continue to deliver random and defaulted experiences. And this absolutely erodes a customer’s ability to define what sets one company apart from another. It erodes long term customer profitability.

Most companies inflict customer pain. Sometimes the end game for customers becomes merely to pick the one that will inflict the least pain. Is that how you want to differentiate yourself?

Take Action: Download 10 Ways to Love (And Respect) Your Customers

About Jeanne Bliss

As “Chief Customer Officer” for Lands’ End, Mazda, Coldwell Banker, Allstate, and Microsoft, Jeanne got “customer” on the strategic agenda, earned 98% loyalty rates, and changed experiences across 50,000-person operations. Jeanne now runs CustomerBliss to create an actionable path for profitability and business growth -- through earning customer and employee raves. Her best-selling books are Chief Customer Officer and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive

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