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Silos: Great for Cattle, Bad for Customers

February 08, 2012

By David Sims,
TMCnet Contributing Editor

A recent article posted by Enterprise Apps Today deals with a topic many companies are wrestling with these days, specifically how consumers want a consistent user experience across all channels from companies, and how that’s a real challenge for companies.

Basically what that means is that if a customers calls the contact center and deals with a rep there, the next e-mail they get from the company needs to reflect the fact that whoever sent the email from the company not only is aware of the phone conversation, but has acted on it.

What kills the ability to know a customer this completely is the departmental silo approach to data, as the EAT piece shows. A customer has a problem with Acme Anvils, they go to the Facebook (News - Alert) page, interact with someone, and assume that all of Acme Anvils is now aware of and dealing with the issue, when in fact, in far too many cases, what happens is the issue dies on the Facebook page, the Acme Anvils FB admin doesn’t kick the conversation around to the contact center or anybody else who needs to know about it.

So the next time the customer calls Acme to see what action’s been taken, she learns that they’re not even aware that she complained the first time. This does not improve customer relationships. It’s like the customer’s stuck in a silo herself.

It’s always been a devilishly hard thing to get right, but with the advent of social media, Facebook and Twitter (News - Alert), it’s even tougher. EAT looks at some efforts to corral all interactions so they don’t slip through the cracks, such as the Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise, which “offers contact centers the ability for to integrate inbound and outbound voice applications with Internet applications such as real-time chat, Web collaboration and email,” to “support multiple interactions simultaneously regardless of which communications channel the customer has chosen.”

This is a good example of what has to be done to knock down those silos keeping relevant information from those within the organization who need it. And it’s not that we don’t have the technology to do it, we do, it’s almost always simply a case of the corporate will not organizing itself around the free flow of information internally. “The greatest challenges to offering multi-channel customer support are not technical but organizational in nature,” John Hernandez, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s (News - Alert) Customer Collaboration Business told EAT, saying companies need “a more holistic view” of customers:

“Customer service, inside sales and marketing all have a role to play in multimedia customer experience, so they need to come together and understand the rules of engagement and rules of responsibility.”

Take video -- it’s getting a lot more traction as a customer touch point. If a customer interacts with a video presentation of yours do all the relevant people within your organization know about it? Or will your customer service impression take a hit the next time that customer interacts with you? Or can you use video to connect customers at, say, a bank branch to an expert who can help them, right then and there, with their issue?

Or do you want the expert stuck in a silo?

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Chris DiMarco