Only if business unites merge will they get the whole picture

3 reasons to merge your business units

When it comes to data, most companies plan to open up their so called “data silos” and create one singular data base. But for a real transformation, employees need to come together, too.

Teamwork: one for all and all for one?

Back at school there were two kinds of group work strategies:

One group divided all tasks amongst each other and finished individually. On the day of the presentation, the order of presenters would be set and everyone had their own little presentation for their specified topic.

The other group would assign tasks but also work together in completing them to create coherence for the presentation. That way, weaker members would get help from stronger ones and everyone knew what the other person would talk about, therefore avoiding contradictions or redundancies.

Needless to say, group number one’s presentations usually differed greatly in quality and lost the plot occasionally. On the other hand, group number two’s presentations would usually end up in an experience for the group members and the audience. For group number one, each member got a different mark. For group number two, everybody got the same (excellent) mark.

Now imagine the group members being the different business units at a company: marketing, sales and service. All of them have to work on the topic customer journey management with the goal to optimize the customer experience.

What do you think, how many companies work like group number two and how many get stuck with group number one’s game plan?

Lacking teamwork results in negative customer experiences

Today’s customers don’t address a single business unit with their problems. Given the numerous communication channels and their own individual point of view, they address the business and expect a solution from the business. What they wants is neither a marketing, sales or service solution, but a solution. And they want that solution fast with seamless workflows and smooth communication.

However, most companies don’t think like a customer.

For example, a customer addresses a company on Twitter. A friendly Social Media Manager (marketing) tells him that he can’t solve the problem, instead, the customer should fill out the contact form on the website. The customer does so, repeats his problem and adds that he also would like some information on a current special offer. He receives an answer via email that addresses his problem (service) and the information that he should ask sales about the special offer. Sales, however, can only be reached via telephone.

One simple customer request ended in two forwards on four different communication channels and three contact persons (one for each business unit). Even if the customer appreciates the polite communication style of each employee, the experience itself is frustrating. He expected that he can address the company on any channel and get a simple answer (ideally on the same channel).

Knowledge silos caused by walled up business units

As long as marketing, sales and service don’t see themselves as one team to ensure a positive customer experience, the customer experience will suffer.

If a marketing employee doesn’t know where to find information on support tickets …

… and if service doesn’t know where to find appropriate sales content …

… and if nobody knows what processes get documented in their respective software systems, the whole reason for digital transformation fails its goal.

My suggestion: take digital transformation as an opportunity to break down the walls between your business units (if not completely, at least let some light through). Give your employees the possibility to understand processes beyond their daily tasks. That way, everyone can be more flexible when it comes to customer interactions.

The advantages are clear:

  1. Profit from one data base

A single data base has so many advantages that I could dedicate an entire blog to it. For now, I would simply like to point out that it first and foremost helps document and work on data better by adhering to data law.

At the same time, every employee who deals with customers can get the whole customer’s history, if needed, and for example see right away whether a customer prefers to be contacted via telephone or has outstanding issues.

Especially the latter case can save marketing and sales time (and prevent churn). No customer wants to receive a marketing message or a sales call when they are in the middle of a support issue. With the right information for all units, this can be prevented.

  1. Fulfill customer requests

As mentioned before, the customer doesn’t care who he addresses at a company, he expects a relevant answer regardless the channel or business unit.

As soon as marketing, sales and service merge, they can work on customer’s issues more efficiently. A marketing employee could relay an issue to the service unit but still be the person of contact for the customer.

That means, of course, that he has to function as a service employee for a while – but this should be no problem if the common goal is a successful customer journey rather than individual marketing goals.

Companies therefore have to train their employees to think ahead and beyond their usual competencies. Furthermore, companies need to implement the right technology to support them.

  1. Match goals and processes to each other

Have you heard of the Indian fable of three blind men and an elephant? All three can only touch one part of the elephant. One touches the leg, another the trunk, the third an ear. When they try to describe the animal to each other, each one of them has a completely different account and they accuse each other of lying.

This is the worst case scenario in a company that has clearly defined business units with no overlapping processes and communication strategies. If marketing, sales and service don’t know about the goals of the other units, they can only fulfill their tasks according to their goals but without the big picture (the elephant in the room, so to say). If all fails, they might even hinder each other instead of supporting each other.

It is always better to grasp and fulfill your own tasks and goals with one common goal and philosophy in mind. Shared data and an appreciation for each other’s role helps to respect each business unit and work together without working against each other.

How do German companies merge their marketing, sales and service units? We asked them and combined the results with best practices and trends in our customer journey management market survey 2016.

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