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In my experience, the biggest organisational divides lie between customer-facing staff and the so-called back office. [Just calling it back office is a deprecation, but is it more polite than the names often used internally for sales and marketing…]

And nothing will harm your reputation than these enormous silos. How I love a mixed metaphor.

When sales, marketing and customer services don’t communicate well. Or when operations, engineering and the supply chain fail to listen, the voice of the customer is rapidly lost in a sea of disconnected objectives. Issues reoccur. We rush new products and services out the door. So they are filled with the faults of their predecessors with new ones added just for them.

Continuous improvement is the only way to satisfy customers (clients, patients etc etc) continually. But not improvement for improvement’s sake.

Plan Do Check Amend
This diagram goes by many names and has several variants. The key is to initiate change only when the check/ study/ monitor shows a genuine benefit.

Is this the truth of your organisation?

Customer-facing teams manage issues as best they can with smoothing tools like escalation, refunds and free replacements. The problems continue until something happens that must have a fix from the ‘back office’. Then the shouting starts and our, all too human, predilection for assuming our job is harder than anyone else’s kicks in. The front office demands solutions which the experts reject. Priorities get in the way and the job ‘I am being paid for’ takes precedence over arisings. Senior managers roll up their sleeves, tiger teams pounce and everyone retrenches as the bloodshed continues. When the dust settles both sides tend to the wounded and wait for the next salvo.

How do you break down the walls, bridge the silos, share the pain?

With accountability and communication.

By accountability, I mean everyone in the organisation stands by their impact on customers. You can foster accountability in many ways, but it must start at the top and be unambiguous.

Communication is obvious, innit? Sadly not, look around you:

  • Do you know what customers think of your products and services? Can you get the information that will help you take action?
  • Can you easily pass on customer feedback? Do you know what questions to ask of your customers to get the right information for the back-office?

Does your organisation have accountability and communication?

If not, simple process fixes, backed up with governance and technology, can make a problem shared become a problem halved.

This blog examines customer experience and its relationship to business performance.

If you would like to share your thoughts, please comment or head over to my contact page and to get in touch.

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