Smash Every Silo to Build Great CX


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Too often customers feel a great urge to introduce a company’s right hand to its left. Interdepartmental and inter-system disconnects are the prime points cited for CX breakage and are the key issues CMOs need to fix now – to deliver significantly improved CX experiences.

In the Gartner survey “Leading CX Priorities for 2015 Are Projects Aimed at Improving Consistency Across Channels and Acting as “One” Unified Organization,” more than one-third of survey participants said their customer experience improvement … involved significant changes of their business. The leading CX priorities for 2015 are projects aimed at improving consistency across channels and acting as “one” unified organization.”

According to Nick Inglebrecht, research director at Gartner, “…There appears to be a recognition among the more mature organizations that CX projects span organizational boundaries and fundamentally affect the way the organization operates… As a result, Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than 50 percent of organizations will implement significant business model changes in their efforts to improve customer experience.”

IT Systems that Work Vertically – (Information Silos)

When your many marketing, sales, customer and other information systems do not converse, then your employees are not communicating effectively to serve your customers. You have what is deemed, an Information Silo on your hands. As a result, your customers have an experience that screams out that you do not know/care about them because your systems are not connecting their interaction dots.

Let’s put this into a real life scenario. In our ERDM research interviews with today’s omnichannel consumers, this is how people are shopping. Ddo you have the means to deliver on this seamless experience?

“I might see something on TV, or hear an ad on the radio. …Then I’ll browse the website. … print out the cart. Then, I call Customer Service to have them answer my questions, and place the order.”

So, the goal is for companies to achieve Information Interoperability, “ the ability to meaningfully exchange information among separately developed information technology (IT) systems [so that] separate systems are able to understand the format, meaning and also the quality of the information being exchanged.”

This requires a fundamental rethinking regarding information ownership and data sharing at every level and every department.

Cocooned Departments With Disparate Priorities

A study from the Customer Contact Association (CCA) found that for companies to provide a positive customer experience there must be a collaborative effort among all departments.

Here are some insights from Adobe’s “The CX Challenge: Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing“:

  • CX can only be truly effective if they’re implemented by an organization that embraces the idea that every department team and individual is responsible for the customer relationship.
  • Advanced companies are more likely to describe customer experience as embedded throughout the organization
  • There is a relationship between a holistic organizational approach to customer experience management and ultimate success.

Takeaways to Break Corporate Silos and Improve CX

1. Companies must identify their IT Silo disconnects and develop plans for sustainable information sharing. While technology integration is a lofty and expensive goal, new data input strategies and employee access to various systems for customer lookups can be a short term fix.

2. To break the silo mentality, companies need to fundamentally rethink, change, and improve cross-department relationships to cultivate teamwork and collaboration with unified CX goals and priorities.

Remedying communication disconnects at every level of an organization starts with an attitude adjustment regarding collaboration as well as information ownership and information sharing. Today’s omni-touchpoint consumer requires nimble companies with CX practices that effortlessly keep up and deliver without pain.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


  1. I completely agree Ernan – all too often I see a complete lack of ‘collaboration’ within organisations. Many ‘silos’ have no comprehension of what others are doing…. and often do not care. The sooner businesses recognise that all functions deliver the customer journey TOGETHER, the better!! That includes both customer facing AND internal facing functions. It always amazes me how ‘colleagues’ have never actually met each other. To deliver great Customer Experiences, businesses need to understand how to work together at all levels of the organisation.

  2. I think the issue is even bigger than what Ernan highlighted. In many (most?) companies the attitude is us first, customer second, business whenever instead of customer first, second and third. Omnichannel simplicity is critical but so is everything to do with delivering on the business’ Value Proposition and brand promises.

    Active leadership plus cross-functional teams are two steps that will start changing the culture of the business and getting people at all levels accustomed to working together to solve “outside” problems.

  3. Great post!! The more structural hierarchies can be flattened, with key customer data and insights readily, and horizontally, shared within and across groups, the greater can be the focus on delivering optimum value and experiences. As my colleague Colin Shaw is fond of saying, “All of us are smarter than some of us”, meaning that the more everyone is “radically included” in information which impacts customer processes or culture, the better the value proposition can be realized. Open information systems contribute to customer-centricity

  4. Ian, Sam and Michael;

    Appreciate your thoughtful insights.

    A very smart client we worked with to implement VoC based CX reengineering said that their fundamental metric for evaluating success was;
    That every department, across every part of business, would be able to articulate the company’s vision for customer care and engagement and that this understanding would be consistent from the CEO’s office down to the loading dock

    That was a brilliant vision for ensuring across-the-board focus on the customer, regardless of silo or business unit.

  5. Ernan –

    Your response puts me in mind of a definition of customer-centricity that I recall once having seen: “Customer-centricity is a single, integrated view of the customer across the entire enterprise.” It’s what we refer to as “natural customer-centricity”, where providing strategic and tactical value is a corporate obsession across the entire customer life cycle..


  6. Hello, Ernan. Could not agree more. Many years ago I used to help companies in adding value to the internal customer. Then I realised the concept of internal customers was a flawed one, as it built silos.
    My suggestion of replacing the Operations department (Sales, Marketing, HRD, Design and Development, Manufacturing, IT etc.) by the Customer Department so that all work as a team to provide the best for the customer and all have as their highest priority the customer

  7. Great point Gautam.

    Your strategy also makes the point that wholesale change like this has to come from the top down.


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