Blog Defining Your Customers with One Eye Closed?

Posted August 10, 2017 by Bill McKenney

Breaking Down Digital Silos

How well do you really know your customers? In many organizations, the answer depends on your role within your company. Are you sales-focused, with an eye toward understanding your customers through the conversations you’ve had with them? Or, are you a digital marketer with a keen understanding of customer’s online interactions? In today’s world, there is no doubt that digital interaction has significant importance. When it comes to digital, it’s not uncommon to have a team of sophisticated people, processes, and technology focused on understanding customers’ digital lives and behaviors. Sometimes this narrowed focus leaves out important, non-digital, “offline” information that collectively tells a much richer and more insightful customer picture – in turn promoting better communication and engagement.

Some examples of role-based bias:

  • The digital team is focused on driving website clicks.
  • The marketing team is targeting customers using transaction data and demographics and building communication plans in their marketing automation system.
  • The sales team uses their CRM system to plan which customers to talk to and about which products.

In most cases, no team has the larger view of the customer – each views the customer according to their team’s goals, measurements, and perceptions of performance. Each has become a silo of understanding customer behavior. Each is valid but not necessarily complete or integrated.

So how can you dissolve those silos – digital or otherwise – that inhibit the higher performance and rewards that come with true collaboration? While the answer is multi-faceted, one often overlooked component is how well “front line” people are communicating with each other. Those most heavily invested in understanding the customer’s needs (sales, marketing, and customer service people) are often not on the same page.

What steps can you take?

  1. Align on vision. It’s important to align everyone on a common focal point that is bigger than their immediate goals. (For example, “Retain our most valuable customers,” versus individual goals like “number of hits on the website” or “meeting the quarterly sales target.”) Direct focus externally on what customers want and the way these customers perceive interactions with the business. Siloed groups should come together and rally around a shared vision, and then focus on strategy and tactics.
  2. Clearly understand and articulate each team’s goals. All teams should understand the goals and performance metrics of the others. In doing so, there are better opportunities for teams to determine how to eliminate flaws or inhibitors to the vision. Perhaps more importantly, it should reveal where each team depends on the others for success, which can be the foundation for discussions on how to better support each other (while moving away from a focus on what is only important to each group).
  3. Note the concern points. Review the things that can be done to improve now. Then jointly prioritize what is to be tackled and when. Ask people how they think they can help solve the concern points. To keep all groups accountable and moving forward, schedule recurring meetings to discuss status and new developments as well as address any roadblocks.
  4. The final handshake. Breaking down silos is much easier when everyone has the bigger picture (vision), understands the roles and challenges their counterparts face, and can align on goals. This way the path is opened for all parties to contribute to a more complete customer view – across digital and offline domains.

Breaking down the digital and communications silos can be difficult, but these steps are a great start. The result can be a more insightful picture of your customer and a clearer visualization of the next steps in your digital journey.



Bill McKenney
Senior Consultant
DST Analytics Consulting

categories: analytics

The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of DST Systems, Inc. or its affiliates, subsidiaries, joint ventures, officers, directors, or management.




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