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5 Ways Contact Centers Can Help Break Down Walls & Silos in Organizations

Spotlight on Strategy: Join Chris at ICMI Contact Center Connections from October 28-30 in Chicago. He'll be speaking in session 303: "How to Have Success with Knocking Down Walls and Silos." 

Within many organizations, barriers to both resources and information exist. Unfortunately, when it comes to the contact center, these walls not only impede the progress of team members but also limit the customer experience. Sometimes there is vital information hidden behind a curtain that only a select few can access. Some departments, unknowingly, operate within their own silos, withholding critical information and resources from others who may benefit from it. If these walls between departments and those supporting customers were to come down, there would be a positive effect on the organization and the customer. This would increase in customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and productivity.

In this article, we will explore proven ways that those in the contact center can help break down these walls and silos in their organization.

Breaking down silos in the organization

But first, why do silos and walls between departments exist within an organization?

Silos and walls exist when there is a lack of both information and resources shared between teams or departments within an organization. Goals, priorities, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) may not be widely known amongst all groups. In an organization where teams operate independently of each other, there may be walls, sometimes both literally and figuratively, put up to keep others out, negatively impacting collaboration. As such, employee engagement suffers as many people are not as effective or successful as they could or want to be. Interactions between members of the different departments can also be strained if efforts are not made to improve the culture and flow of work. In the end, walls and silos primarily exist because of communication problems within an organization.

In the contact center, how can you help to break down walls across the business to improve communication?

1. Align Your Team Around a Theme

  • As contact center leaders, you are succeeding when your team is successful. To equip those in the contact center to succeed, you will need to provide them with access to more information and resources so that they can support customers better.
  • Aim to align your team around the theme of "breaking down the walls." Ensure everyone, at all levels of the team, is on the lookout for ways to gain more influence and insights from across the business.
  • You can't, nor should you, do it alone. Having everyone on your team working with the goal of building bridges across other teams will serve everyone well. Having support from your Executive or Senior Leaders goes a long way too.

2. Data: Create a Need to Share Culture to Drive Continuous Improvement

  • The contact center is oozing with data. Insights on customers, products, and services are everywhere, but often underutilized. Most people throughout the business don't even realize that some great sources of intel are easily within their grasp. Aim to create a culture where you and those on your team feel the need to share with others.
  • Taking interactions for the sake of taking interactions is useless. The contact center should operate with the mentality that it can be a funnel for continuous improvement insights for the rest of the business. Customer data and trends should be used to help improve products, services, and processes. As contact center professionals, make sure you are leveraging the data from your team and presenting customer insights into partner departments like Marketing, Sales and Product. Your goal should be to offer data to help them be even more successful.
  • As it becomes more common to share contact center data throughout the rest of the business, the more valuable your team will be perceived to be by others. Soon enough, other leaders will be coming asking for feedback on how to make the customer experience better. Personally, I have found this to be when the floodgates open with access to new tools, information, and processes for your team. You’ve created a win/win environment for everyone.

3. Syncs: Eliminate the Disconnect

  • To eliminate silos, sometimes you need to confront them head-on. Don't be afraid to schedule meetings with leaders in other teams, calling out the need for greater transparency and communication. Unlock the power of these Sync Sessions to improve communication and alignment around the customer experience.
  • This must be a slow build approach to creating collaboration though. You can't go into these meetings initially asking for the world or be hot and fired up about the lack of alignment you might be seeing. While there might be opportunities for improvement, trust me, it does no good for you personally or your team, to whine or aggressively try to force others to collaborate. Like dating, these initial meetings should be about getting to know one another first. You are working on improving your relationship with each other. Ask questions and get to know what’s going on in their world as your number one priority:

o Find out what’s on their plate? Share what’s on yours too.

o What are their challenges or pain points?

o How can you help each other?

o Ultimately, you need to use these sessions to build a win/win culture between your teams where each of you come away with something eventually down the road.

  • It takes time to build trust and rapport. There needs to be a regular cadence to how often these meetings are held.
  • It is best to keep these sessions small too. Don't group a variety of departments together for a combined sync session. It will go off the rails and lose focus, meandering into a giant waste of time. Instead, focus on having targeted sessions with the leaders of teams that connect best to the contact center on a semi-regular basis (once per quarter or bi-monthly).
  • The more you can connect, the more that the contact center will be on their radar. Before you know it, you can involve members of the team in these sessions creating a development opportunity for others too.

4. Recognition: Applies to Everyone

  • All people want to be recognized for good work, including teams. While you are working through sync sessions and sharing data, you will start to see other members of the business helping the contact center be more effective. Recognize them for it.
  • To reward the correct behaviors, first, thank them. You want to be a leader and team known for catching people doing things right. Publicly or privately recognize individuals who help support the efforts of the contact center with lunches, or email a quick thank you, or even provide them with a trophy. It doesn't have to cost a lot either.
  • Reward to reinforce by having your team involved in the process. If people are making your job and that of your team's easier, recognize these supporting stars for their contributions to the contact center. Build a formal recognition program where you recognize those that make the customer experience better throughout the organization.

5. Use Talent Wisely: Have Allies Everywhere

  • In many organizations, the contact center serves as a feeder pool for talent to be promoted into other parts of the business. While it can be frustrating losing these high-potentials, it's a tremendous source of strength that few realize.
  • Leverage team members who used to be part of the contact center as allies, who can help further the customer experience and your team's interests. Ensure that those who leave your team "don't forget where they have come from" and lean on them if need be to help improve communication. If you successfully maintain a stronger connection to those no longer part of your team, you can further build your network internally, accomplishing much more through access to new information, tools, and processes.
  • Just because someone isn't officially part of the contact center doesn’t mean he or she still doesn’t support customers either. All people in an organization have two jobs: (1) the one they were hired for and (2) supporting customers. Keep reminding people whom you worked with about the importance of the second job that they have.

Measuring Success

As you start breaking down walls and silos across your organization, collaborating more with other teams, how will you know if you are successful? In my experience as part of the contact center, there are two key numbers that I closely monitor to gauge success with breaking down walls and silos: Volume & Customer Satisfaction.

Volume

  • Depending on overall business growth, your year-over-year volume may tell you if you are successful in improving communication across the business.

o If overall interaction volume dips year-over-year despite the company posting higher revenues and increases, then you were successful. If your contact center interactions are trending down, it's a good sign that you are effectively working well across department lines, with key groups like IT, Product and Marketing on deflection efforts. A reduction in interaction volume can also be attributed to things like product quality or information improvements that were highlighted and shared through customer data.

o If interaction volumes continue to rise with repeat situations not addressed, it shows that a culture of continuous improvement and sharing data cross-functionally isn't happening enough.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

  • Setting and hitting a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), such as 90%+ CSAT per quarter, can mean that cross-functionally you are getting the support you need to improve the overall experience.

o Those providing support may be the only people that a customer contacts at an organization. As such, they represent customer satisfaction for the organization. If CSAT is going up, it's because the organization is better aligned around the customer experience.

o The goal should always be to provide a simple, efficient and effective customer experience. If your organization has a consistently high CSAT score or an improved one year-over-year, it shows that progress is being made across the entire business.

Final Thoughts

Breaking down walls and silos won’t be easy. It takes hard work and patience to make a breakthrough sometimes. More than likely, you will encounter some pockets of resistance, but the more you can persevere, the better positioned for success you will be. In my experience, building a culture of alignment and collaboration throughout the entire organization could take months or even years, but the long wait and effort are worth it. As you become more successful in building bridges across teams, momentum will kick in, unlocking tons of potential for you and the rest of the contact center.

Remember, breaking down walls and silos takes a coordinated effort and approach.

  1. Start with aligning the contact center around the theme of breaking down barriers.
  2. Create a culture of needing to share information to drive ongoing continuous improvement.
  3. Eliminate the disconnect with other leaders throughout the business unlocking the power of sync sessions.
  4. Everyone who helps you and the contact center should be recognized and feel appreciated.
  5. Leverage allies, including former team members across the business to gain access to relationships, information and more resources.

The more effective communication is throughout the business, the more likely walls and silos across the organization can come down.

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