Though organizational silos can wreck lots of business initiatives, they are especially damaging to those involving customer service. It's fine for companies to beef up their social media initiatives, but they may fall flat if internal organizations don't make good use of information gleaned from customer conversations. As I wrote last month:
Using feedback garnered from customers, marketing can create some pretty terrific promotions. But those promotions may fall flat if it doesn't work in tandem with other departments to deliver promised products or services. Poorly-supported promotions may generate customer complaints. If those end up in a departmental silo somewhere, it'll just exacerbate the problem.
Knowing this (and having experienced it firsthand, as a customer), I wasn't surprised to see it mentioned on Forrester Research analyst Kerry Bodine's list of three customer experience predictions for 2011.
"More parts of the organization will seek to get into the customer experience game," she writes as her second of three predictions. This seems fairly obvious in the case of product management and marketing, two of her examples. It's a little less so for operations and HR, other areas she mentions. But, she explains, they'll "get thrown into the mix as customer experience efforts expand into the redesign of internal business processes and customer-centric hiring, training, and compensation practices."
Bodine's predictions mesh nicely with a TheSocialCustomer blog post by Esteban Kolsky I wrote about a few weeks ago. In it, Kolsky said companies will need to focus on "boring business functions," not just Twitter or Facebook campaigns, to better serve their customers. He suggested companies would increase their investments in collaboration technologies so that internal organizations can communicate more effectively with each other and in data management and data analysis technologies so they can make sense of the growing volumes of customer information.
This idea is also supported in a new report commissioned by IBM, titled "Inside the Midmarket: A 2011 Perspective." Based on surveys of 2,100 IT decision makers in medium-sized businesses, the study showed a big increase in the number of companies planning to focus on customers in 2011. Thirty-one percent of respondents mentioned customer focus as a priority for 2011, up 20 percent from last year's survey. Like Kolsky, IBM is bullish on the idea of increased investments in data analysis, one of its sweet spots.
While it's great that companies seem to recognize that internal organizations must work together to increase customer satisfaction (and hopefully generate more revenue), they'll be challenged to create the kinds of end-to-end, multi-organizational processes that can help attain this goal. Business process management could play a key role. William Band, one of Bodine's Forrester colleagues, seems to think so. In his list of the top 12 customer management trends for 2011, he puts "BPM extends to the front office" at No. 2. He writes:
By extending business process management (BPM) to the front office functions, customer service organizations will improve the consistency of service delivered, elevate agent efficiency, personalize service, and meet compliance goals - at a cost that makes sense to the business.