Is a silo mentality negatively impacting your customer experience?

Strategy - 03 Apr 2019

A silo is a system, process or department that operates in isolation from others. Whilst silos within organisations are nothing new, the impact of silos on the customer experience and how organisations work has become more evident through digital, and multi-channel customer journeys.

Customers today have a greater number of choices, and more channels through which to pursue them. They also have higher expectations.
A good customer experience can improve business efficiencies and even help your company create competitive advantage even more so than product or price.
When we talk about customer experience we are referring to how customers feel about a brand. That perception of the brand is built up through the entire customer journey, and each touchpoint in their journey.
An effective customer experience requires an organisation to have specific processes and attitudes in place, that are the antithesis to a silo mentality.
It’s about collaboration, consistency and having a central vision which silos undermine. Before we look at how organisations can overcome a silo mentality, let’s firstly look at what causes these.


Breda Doherty

About the author

As Head of Strategy Breda helps organisations deliver connected experiences and transform for the better. Breda has worked in strategic roles for 9 years, including helping organisations develop active online communities, create customer focused websites and digital products. Breda also runs Scotland’s only Strategy meet-up, and presents the Strategy Sheroes podcast.

What causes silos

The first reason that a silo mentality exists is that over the course of time, organisations are unable to see what is happening so embedded are they in the company’s culture and operations.Renowned psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, describes being “blind to our own blindness”, and when applied to silos, although some organisations may be aware of their existence, they may not understand the real impact they are having across the business, including in the area of customer experience.One of the biggest advantages we see when running stakeholder workshops with our clients is getting staff from different departments in the one room at the same time. They often comment that this is one of the few times they have been in the same room together or have had the opportunity to hear the perspectives of other departments.When coming up with solutions this means we can propose longer-term more holistic solutions than putting a plaster on one aspect of the problem.

Websites that are designed by committee

Over the years I’ve worked on countless strategies to improve website experience.
It was during these projects that I began to encounter the silos that exist within organisations and the detrimental impact that these have on the customer experience.
Some of the common traits you will see on the website of a siloed organisation include:
1. Confusing customer journeys: Journeys haven’t been designed with the customer in mind but rather to facilitate competing internal needs. Therefore the journeys don’t help the user get to where they need to, and you see drop-offs in the conversion funnel as a result.
2. The user being asked to take a multitude of actions: Because all teams are looking at the website from their own perspective journeys are made even more confusing because of the numerous actions a user is being asked to take. No prioritisation has been given across the business, and it may therefore not be uncommon to see websites that have up to 20 calls to action on a single page. With this cognitive overload, users don’t take any action at all.
3. Content overload: Like with calls to action because everyone wants their message to be shown, the website becomes overwhelmed with content, and not necessarily the right content, despite this being so vital to the customer experience.


Websites that rely on an excessive use of rotating carousels despite studies showing their low click through rates of 1-2% and issues on mobile, is usually because no one has been able to agree what content is important. UX designer Brad Frost several years ago termed carousels “organisational crutches” but today they’re still a go to solution for companies who don’t want to or don’t know how to prioritise content.

Restricted Conversion Rate Optimisation

Optimising the customer journey is important for brands who sell their products/services online, which in today’s world is most.Within siloed organisations, different teams may be responsible for very specific parts of the customer journey. The budgets and ROI of each team’s work may also be siloed, discouraging teams from using their budgets in any way that they are unlikely to get the credit for.With this approach, teams are tasked with optimising a very limited point in the customer journey, ignoring other areas that will fundamentally impact how the total journey performs and creating a fragmented brand experience.This fragmentation also extends to each channel a user may touch in their overall journey. Each channel may adopt slightly different messaging, have a different idea of who is being targeted and communicate a different tone, creating an inconsistent brand experience throughout the journey.Fragmented understanding is chronic in organisations where KPIs are assigned and measured per individual department or team, with marketing and sales, having quite a sensitive and competitive crossover.

How to overcome silos

Former Navy SEAL and author Chris Fussell in his book One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams, says removing silos is really about shifting our thinking from hierarchies to networks. These networks are focused on reducing the time between team communications and creating more opportunities for knowledge sharing within the organisation.
Most of these networked comms are non-technological, but to provide the CX customers expect, technological aids that support knowledge sharing and responsiveness are needed. Examples from an internal perspective include CRM and having a single customer view, and from the customer’s perspective responsive tools like live chat, and self-service tools.

Creating a unified vision

It is imperative that the leadership team agrees to a common and unified vision for the organisation. If you don’t have a common vision that is making everyone move in the same direction, then different teams will have competing visions and no central benchmark to work towards. Managers and staff need to be supported to break out of the “my department” mentality and into the “our organisation” mentality, with leadership teams ensuring this vision is effectively communicated downstream, in a way that gets everyone motivated to help achieve it - as a connected team.

Dissolving ownership

People need to collaborate between roles as customers belong to no single department, and their journey may be made up of several channels at each stage of the customer journey.
Be aware of how giving staff ownership of very specific parts of the customer journey rather than taking a holistic view of the whole journey encourages silos.
When this holistic view is taken, teams should benefit from this more connected approach, helping to enhance the customer experience and therefore drive more conversions. It may also provide the opportunity to cross-sell different products or services as part of the customer’s journey, often lost when a singular approach is taken.


Customer centered rather than company centered

When companies look at what they need to achieve from a company perspective rather than through the eyes of the customer, this is already establishing a barrier between the brand and customers.
Not having a customer centered perspective is exemplified in many ways with one of the most visible being the use of company language that doesn’t align with how customers think about the brand’s topic nor how they will search for it.
Keyword tools used in SEO are a great way to establish the language your customers will use when thinking and searching about your product or services. Speaking to your customers through focus groups and analysing the language used in customer reviews are also great ways to create a more user-friendly language that can be used throughout the organisation.
Customer journey mapping is a great tool to get teams thinking from the customer’s perspective.


Think customer journey rather than customer touchpoints

A customer journey map is a visual representation of every experience your customers have with you. It helps to tell the story of a customer's experience with your brand from original engagement and into hopefully a long-term relationship.
Journey mapping creates a shared overview of the customer experience rather than individual perspective created through touchpoints.
Journey mapping creates an interconnected overview of the customer experience. We use this approach in many of our stakeholder workshops, even those in which the brief is focused on one channel to show staff that this channel is not the full story, and to help them better understand its role.
The process of bringing together and visualizing different touchpoints helps engage encourages collaborative conversation. For the first time it can help fragmented teams see the bigger picture and therefore get a more accurate understanding of the customer experience.
Like personas customer journey maps are representative and therefore shouldn’t be intimidating to complete. They also work really well when completed in conjunction with personas.
A persona focuses on the person, while a customer journey map focuses on their experience.

Choose an attribution model that rewards cross-team efforts

An attribution model is the rule, or set of rules, that determines how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touchpoints in conversion paths.
The customer journey involves many interactions so choosing a single-touch attribution model may encourage silos, whereas a multi-touch model gives credit to all interactions removing the desire to seek credit for a single interaction and makes people look at journeys from all touch-points rather than only the touchpoint they have responsibility for.
Multi-touch models such as Linear, also gives your organisation a better idea of what happened in the middle of the journey. The middle stages might be just as vital for revenue as the first touch, and by using linear attribution you are able to see patterns that were otherwise hidden. You are now getting a more complete view of the entire story. And that’s what organisations need is a clear view of the customers’ total story, if they are to provide an effective customer experience.

With customers putting additional importance on customer experience and customer experience requiring connected thinking, shared knowledge and a holistic overview of the customer journey, organisations need to rethink their operational processes to ensure silos don’t get in the way of them providing the best possible experience.