Busting Service Silos

The challenge is that so much of what we can do for our customers falls down between organizational silos.

We often meet with teams that say they are fairly effective at teamwork. But when we study their relationship with other departments and organizations, things start to fall apart. The result is that we often find silos that create gaps in creating a solid, consistent, customer experience. In our book, Lead With Your Customer, we talk about service silos as ineffective, vertically organized, isolated areas of an organization’s operations led by influential people who are characterized by the following:

  • They avoid taking any responsibility for areas not directly under their control.
  • They expect bureaucratic processes to support their agenda.
  • They hold key information close to themselves, failing to share it with other involved parties.
  • They are quick to acquit themselves while pointing blame at others.
  • They speak in terms of “you” or “I,” not “we” or “us.”
  • They are obsessed with what they can control rather than what they can influence.
  • They often act in an overbearing fashion toward others, rather than collaboratively.
  • They are frequently slow or the last to get on board with a new program.
  • They are more focused on their own interests than on what is ultimately best for the customer or the organization.

Service silos prevent an organization from creating an optimal service experience. Some have characterized the people who support these silos as cancers within an organization–caring basically only about their own well-being, to the detriment of the company. It’s critical for leaders to identify ways to break down those silos and rid the workplace of these attitudes by influencing change for the better. There are two approaches to this:

1. The Harder Way. Make sweeping changes to your organization’s structure. This will bust the silo, but it may also bust your ability to get work done in the short term by re-organizing as well as your morale over the short and long-term.

2. The Easier Way. Take time to get to know and build relationships with other parts of the organization. Learn about them by inviting them to come over to your department and share their learnings. Find formal and informal ways to socialize. Create projects where you can collaborate together in a way that makes each side feel like they are contributing meaningfully.

Unless you take a proactive role, it’s difficult to provide a customer experience that doesn’t fall down between organizational silos. Think about the things you can do to bring your organization together.

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