Break Down Department Silos: Collaborative Teams Are Better for Business
Thought Leadership, People Operations

Break Down Department Silos: Collaborative Teams Are Better for Business

May 17, 2021 by Lynn Charafeddine

Does this sound familiar?

You pick up the phone to call a company to ask them a question. You navigate through an obtuse answering machine until you finally hear an option that may apply to you and hit that number. You stay on the line for a while, listening to the hold music, until someone picks up.

You explain your problem to the agent on the phone. They ask you some questions, and you answer them. Then they ask you to hold while they redirect your call. Again you’re listening to the music while waiting for the next available agent. 

When you finally get through, much to your chagrin, you’re asked the same questions you had just answered, and you have to explain your problem all over again. The new agent manages to solve one part of your query, then redirects you to someone else that can solve the rest of it.

The hold music feels like nails on a chalkboard. By the time your query is resolved, you’ve wasted so much time, had to answer the same set of questions over and over, and had to repeat your query three times. You’re probably frustrated enough to never work with this company again.

This is what happens when businesses have siloed departments. When sales, marketing, support, and product teams can’t work collaboratively and access each other’s information, it leads to the kind of tedious scenario we just walked through together. And while it might seem innocuous enough—one bad interaction with one individual— siloed departments consistently result in poor customer relationships, and money lost or left at the table.

On the other hand, breaking down those siloes and unifying your teams will have an inverse effect. It’s better for your customers and better for your bottom line.

Better for your customers

When people from different teams have access to a customer’s interaction history with your brand, regardless of when and where the interactions took place, the customer feels heard and understood. It’s the same feeling you might get when you casually mention to a friend that lilies are your favorite flower, and then get a bouquet of lilies from them on your birthday. 

Here’s a more topical example: Let’s say your business is a SaaS with a self-serve sign-up. There’s a specific landing page where customers can sign up for free, and this is managed by your Free Accounts Team. There’s another landing page where customers can choose between 4 tiered packages (Free, Standard, Special, and Premium), and this is managed by your Packages Team. These two teams are siloed, and only have access to their own section of the customer journey.

Jamie is a customer who signed up on the Free Accounts landing page. During the process, they had a few interactions with your brand—they had some questions about use cases that your Free Accounts agent helped them with. Later on, Jamie decided they wanted to upgrade and went to do so on the packages landing page, where they had a few confusing interactions.

First, they noticed that the information about the “Free tier” on the packages page is inconsistent with the information on the free account sign-up page. It’s not contradictory per se, but the messaging is definitely different.

They reached out to a Packages Team agent for some clarification, and were surprised to learn that the agent didn’t already know that Jamie had a free account, and what they were using that account for—even though they explained their use cases to the Free Accounts agent. Jamie repeated themself, asked some more questions, and only then was the Packages Team agent able to assist them.

Jamie experienced several inconsistent brand interactions and likely felt like just another customer. If these two teams were working collaboratively, they would have been able to create a more unified representation of the free tier, and would have been able to offer Jamie more personalized engagement. Jamie would have been delighted, and more importantly, they would have received valuable support from your business.

In fact, if Jamie’s use cases were communicated to the Packages Team from the first engagement, they might have even been able to upsell or cross-sell right from the start! This brings us to our next point…

Better for your bottom line

Happy prospects are good for business. In fact, 86% of buyers will pay more for a great customer experience. If your prospects are having positive interactions with your brand, and your teams are able to delight them by making them feel special, they’ll more likely choose you over a competitor. 

Similarly, once they become customers, continuing to delight them will ensure you’ve earned their loyalty for the long run—keeping in mind that 32% of customers will leave a brand they love after a single bad experience. So ensuring you have excellent customer service will translate into higher revenue.

Preserving and analyzing your customer interactions also helps you identify valuable behavior patterns. If your teams don’t have access to this data, you’re leaving money at the table. There are countless ways that your teams can benefit from collaborating.

The marketing team might learn that a certain persona seems especially interested in one specific feature. They can leverage this data to create tailored campaigns that target the vertical, attracting new customers who fit the profile. Your support team might be receiving a large number of tickets about a gap in your offering. This is information that would be vital for the product team to learn about so that they can create new features or evolve existing ones. Your sales team can tap into use cases and support queries to cross-sell or upsell.

This kind of collaboration would not be possible without breaking down the department silos.

Unifying your sales, marketing, support, and product teams

It’s important to note that while this unification is vital for your business, it won’t happen overnight, and you’ll need buy-in from several stakeholders across marketing, sales, support, and product. It’s also important that you set up an infrastructure that can support this cross-department functionality.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Share department goals cross-functionally and identify how they roll up to bigger business goals. Point out where they may be dependencies and opportunities for your teams to collaborate, or where certain goals overlap.
  • Take on a joint project to help your teams get to know each other and work together. Identify what cross-department collaboration looks like and develop the project accordingly. This can be something like support and product meeting to discuss frequently requested features, or sales and marketing aligning on a persona-specific campaign. Whatever the project is, clearly state what the shared KPIs are and have all teams be accountable for its success.
  1. Share your results with other teams and invite them to be part of projects that would serve their goals. Bas Lucieer said it best during our webinar with him: “In the beginning, we did some presentations of the results we had [using the Ada bot to automate support]… All those teams saw the potential.” Seeing positive results will motivate teams to take action and involve themselves in ongoing projects. This is especially true if the process to get these results is easy to replicate!
  • Learn each other’s tech stack and how you leverage tools that other teams are already using. There’s a good chance that your business is using multiple duplicate software tools. This happens when siloed teams don’t know about the resources available to other departments. Your first step should be to audit the tools, then set up a time to educate your different departments on what they are, and how they can be leveraged to address the needs of multiple teams instead of just one. In doing so, you might uncover that multiple teams are feeling a pain that can be solved with a tool that you may or may not already be using. 

For example, Zoom’s Online Account Executive team would frequently handle non-sales chats, leading to lower conversion rates and longer wait times for genuine prospects—not to mention a poor experience for the customer, who had to be transferred to the support department. Zoom’s marketing operations team wanted to intelligently route inquiries to the right department, reserving OAEs for customer acquisition efforts while ensuring that existing customers could still reach the support team. The support team was looking for complementary tools to help Zoom’s customers help themselves, reduce the effort for support agents, and improve the overall experience for free and paid users seeking support. So Zoom partnered with Ada and used one tool that solved all 3 pains their departments were experiencing.

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