How To Move On From Silo Delivered Customer Experiences

November 6, 2014

I’m reading a great book on service design. It’s something I’m delighted to have stumbled across. Serendipity is a wonderful thing. The authors are at least 10-15 years into their game yet I only just found them. Even though I’ve been talking their language in a parallel world for years, they seem to have more focus and a better ‘sonic screwdriver’. So I’m learning fast.

They also have some great quotes. One of which serves perfectly for exploring an idea I’ve had lurking in the back of my mind for a few months now. They talk about how ‘gaps between silos that seem small from the provider’s point of view can accumulate to form experience crevasses for the customer’.

Silos Suck

This is a profoundly well made point. We are still in the era of efficiency as opposed to effectiveness. The way organisations pursue this goal is to systematically atomise the world then take each piece and figure out how to get the best return aka lowest cost delivery.

This almost inevitably results in separate ownership and focus on isolated objectives. This is the start of why gaps turn into crevasses. These owners are rendered unconsciously incompetent since they are left unaware of the greater context in which they operate. Their mandate is just a slice of the full picture. Yet this remains the time honoured way in which we try and bring things under our control. For instance:

  • Does a BPO partner providing voice based advisors get their outside-in impact? This is unlikely given the SLAs they are likely to have signed up for.
  • Does an in-house chat team understand where they appear during a customer journey? Especially in organisations which have separate channel owners who are allowed to manage their operation as a cost centre aka power base?
  • Is the ‘put it in the cloud’ SI partner able to see anything beyond API issues and associated performance issues when delivering interaction infrastructure?

Thus ‘services are often created in silos and experienced in bits’. Such players lack the vital context of understanding what the end user is trying to accomplish. More to the point, many will point out that they too are victim of system and workflows that are the product of silo organised design.

Is there a way out? Before giving my own idea on this, I want to tie in another theme which I see is also part of the issue.

Have you noticed the number of articles recently which explore the merging of functions to get over the silo issue? The most popular proposed marriage is that CTOs and CMOs get hitched. Not far behind are the recommended coupling of Sales and Marketing, Marketing and Customer Service. The list goes on. This internal M&A activity has caught the imagination of many and offers a way of saying that the future must be different.

This desire to evolve is also being explored in terms of changes to reporting lines. I’ve noticed this is a cause of much frustration for newer disciplines who feel they are not being understood. For instance I’ve just read an impassioned plea from UX industry leaders who want to make their contribution more effective. This involves them escaping Product and Marketing clutches through stronger CEO links and more expert executive sponsors who will therefore ‘get’ their value. [...]

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Social Customer Service: Talk Is Cheap, Action’s Much Tougher!

October 24, 2014

The growth in social customer service appears to have stalled. Now the early adopters are out and about, the expected next tranches are nowhere to be seen. New names remain scarce.

That said, it remains a popular blogging topic. The same old ‘5 tips’ formula continues to appear. Is this serving the ‘101’ needs of a new generation? Maybe. Against that, some industry grandees have rubbed out the language of ‘social’ and now only talk ‘digital’.

What’s actually going on? Answers on a postcard if anyone thinks they know.

Meanwhile in my own search for clues, I bring you a rare interview. The fruits of digging deeper into the successes of those who are actually making it work. It’s rare because it’s a different type of story. Here’s why.

While I celebrate the volume and breadth of customer-themed thinking that pours into my inbox every day, it often smacks of unrestrained enthusiasm: based on the way authors imagine it should be rather than the realpolitik of introducing new ideas into a corporate culture. Let’s face it, if repetition was all we needed, the revolution would be done and dusted many moons ago.

So what actually happens when something as different, new and challenging as social customer service is introduced onto the corporate agenda? The lack of broader adoption I referred to earlier suggests that the initial response is seldom ‘love at first sight’.

Meet Chris Geddes. An early adopter of social media who rose to the top of Nokia to run their global support business and then integrated it into Microsoft. I’ve followed his career with great interest. He gets social media. He also gets big business. So how did he get around the lack of ‘love at first sight’ and make it work? This is Chris personal story of how he took that initial rejection on the chin and got down to the serious business of selling in social customer service.

Martin: Chris thanks very much for your time today. I heard you talk recently to a room of social media advocates and you captured everyone’s attention when you started out by saying that as far as social media’s future is concerned, it’s time to conform!

Chris: It’s not a popular message to deliver to a room of social media evangelists. I knew this going in, having been a blue-blood, die-hard social media advocate all my professional life. But it’s a message I really wish someone had told me 10 years ago.

I’ve climbed the corporate ladder despite what I was trying to do in social media, not because of it. And it was only when I was promoted to run all of Customer Support at Nokia/Microsoft Mobile that I could raise my head above the clouds and see what I had been missing.

Having settled into my role running customer support for 1.3bn customers worldwide, I looked at what was expected of me and realized that the revolution I had been evangelizing – “Social Media Transforms Everything Businesses Do”, will never happen.

Martin: So what stopped you in your tracks? [...]

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