When it comes to improving your customer experience (CX), your data plays a vital role.
After all, data is necessary to make informed decisions that positively impact your company. And the only way to improve your customer’s experience is to understand what their current experience is. To do that, you need data, particularly data in the form of feedback from your customers at their various stages of engagement with your company. This data is essential for improving your CX.
But what happens when this crucial customer data gets stuck in a silo that makes it hard to access? What happens when data silos prevent your organization from gaining (and profiting from) a complete picture of the customer experience?
To get the most from your data, you must first understand what causes data silos, why data silos damage your customer experience, and how to get that experience back to where it should be.
How Do Data Silos Occur?
Let’s start by agreeing on what data silos are. A data silo stores information that is only accessible by certain individuals or groups of people. The silo metaphor comes from the world of agriculture. Grain silos are those tall, round towers used to store grain and feed.
On many farms today, and at most grain and feedlots, you will find multiple silos, one silo for each type of grain and feed being stored. There is one silo for wheat. Another silo is for fermented feed. And another silo is for corn. The key thing to appreciate about agricultural silos is that you don’t put corn in the wheat silo and you don’t put wheat in the fermented feed silo.
Each silo is designed for just one commodity. You don’t mix your commodities within your silos. Otherwise, you hurt your customer experience. For example, a customer buys two tons of corn, but that corn comes out of a silo that also contains wheat. So the customer pays for corn but gets corn and wheat and you end up with an unhappy customer.
As you can appreciate, in the world of farming, silos are a good thing. Keeping commodities separated is a good business practice. That’s why each farm has multiple silos.
The world of business borrows the word silo from the world of agriculture because many businesses store their data on servers and storage devices that are not connected to any other servers or storage devices in the business. They store their sales data in one silo. They store their financial data in another silo. And they store their customer data in yet another silo.
Data silos are just like their agricultural counterparts. They are distinct and separate places for storing a particular type of data, and they aren’t connected to the other silos. This is the key thing to know about silos—they keep each kind of data away from other kinds of data.
ata silos are not good for business. They waste time, decrease efficiency, create cumbersome, manual processes and cause headaches for employees, businesses, customers and suppliers.
To appreciate why data silos are bad for business, just remember the last time you had a bad experience when contacting customer service. They took five times longer to get what you need simply because the customer service agents kept redirecting you to different departments. Each agent didn’t have access to the information you gave to the last agent, so you had to tell the same story over and over and over again.
You had to repeat your name to each agent. You had to describe your issue to each agent. And you maybe even had to re-authenticate yourself to each agent. No wonder you were frustrated. And you were frustrated because the company you called had data silos.
If you have data silos in your business, you are not alone. Many businesses keep their data in multiple places. The reasons for this are partly historical, partly cultural and partly technical. Here are the top reasons that you likely have data silos at your organization:
- Department Sectionalism: If your company doesn’t usually have your departments interacting, this can lead to silos from lack of contact and common goals.
- Multiple Apps and Sources of Data: Your company relies on a wide variety of SaaS applications, and none of them directly integrate with each other.
- Outdated Tech: Your technology isn’t suited for widespread employee access to data. Of course, paper and spreadsheet data entry formats can slow things down, but specific software doesn’t promote the ease of information sharing.
- Lack of Training: You can have the best tech on the market, but if your team doesn’t know how to maximize the platform, then you’re missing out on the full scope of benefits offered.
- Company Growth: As your business grows, it can become tricky to keep track of your data, especially when introducing new tools and software. As you scale, some data gets pushed to the side as your employees work to keep up with new customers. This leaves a big mess to clean up later or creates portions of data that are only accessible to a particular group of people.
- Organizational Structures: Your company may have data silos naturally built into the company because bureaucracy, restrictive access control systems and permissioning schemes prevent the sharing of data. In these instances, no one is in charge of making the data accessible to the entire company. More often than not, one person is in charge of a single application, but there isn’t a requirement for them to collaborate with the people in charge of the other applications.
How Do I Know if I Have a Data Silo Problem?
One way to discover if your organization has a problem with data silos is to review customer satisfaction surveys and customer feedback forms. When reviewing comments about the customer experience, indicators of silos from customers include sentiments such as:
- “I spent way too much time on hold while they tried to pull up my info.”
- “I had to explain my problem three times to different representatives.”
- “They kept sending me to different departments who couldn’t help me either.”
Another place to look for evidence of data silos is your employees and how they go about their workdays. If they are doing any of the following things, you have a data silo problem:
- They’re trying to piece together a single view of your customers, but the data is all over the place
- They’re struggling to make sense of business data
- Team members don’t know where to access specific data
- Multiple customers keep complaining about the same issue
- Employees have access to data, but it doesn’t seem accurate
- Your data isn’t matching up across your various platforms
- Employees in one department have no idea what’s going on in other departments
Identifying silos in the workplace requires continually reviewing your CX funnel from both ends. As soon as you discover a silo, you can work to correct it. It’s essential to eliminate data silos as quickly as possible to prevent stunting your company’s growth or wasting your monetary resources.
Data Silo Problems That Are a Danger for Your CX Program
Problem 1: Inability to Scale
Having a lot of information in many places can be fine when you have a small number of clients handled by a small number of employees.
Let’s use an insurance company as an example. If your insurance company operates in a small town and you have five insurance agents that all work together in one room, then you can easily manage all of your data through something as simple as Google Drive. All of your agents work with one financial representative and one receptionist who knows each agent’s extension and can send their customers directly to their phone.
Fast forward a few years. Your insurance company now has multiple locations throughout your state, and you decide to start a customer service helpline that all of your customers can call into with any questions. You have 500 agents working for your company now, and it now makes more sense to have a separate help center. All of a sudden, the Google Drive database isn’t going to cut it.
When you’re ready to grow, your database has to grow with you, or you risk frustrating customers who want to stay with your company. For people in a help center to help you retain your customers and give them a phenomenal experience, they need access to your agents’ information.
Starting with an integrated method of storing data prevents data silos from becoming an issue as your company gains traction.
Problem 2: Time Wasted Preparing and Managing Data for Analysis
Forbes published a study claiming that data scientists spend 80% of their time collecting and preparing data. That leaves only 20% of their time to analyze the data.
The more spread out your data is, the more time you’ll be spending trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together rather than taking stock of the big picture. This means that your employees spend a majority of their time compiling data rather than analyzing the data for insights that matter.
Having your data from all departments centralized into one easy-to-analyze interface saves you time gathering information and gives you more time to improve your brand.
Problem 3: Cost of Various Platforms
Companies hesitate to opt for an integrated platform for their data because the outright cost seems steep. But when you consider how much you spend on multiple data storage platforms for each department, which you pay for based on data volume, you realize how much money you’re wasting by keeping your data separated.
Plus, data silos lead to inefficient use of your employees’ time. Multiple vendor platforms to support data silos are costly, and it’s a better investment of time and money to use an integrated platform.
Problem 4: Difficulty Sharing Information
Delivering an incredible customer service experience relies on your ability to share data between employees. It’s impossible to solve someone’s problem if you don’t know the whole story. Data silos lead to miscommunication, lost information, and non-dissemination throughout your company.
Customers want to know that you can solve their problems. They engaged with your brand because they believed you could solve one of their problems in the first place. The more streamlined your data-sharing process is, the easier it will be to continue solving your customers’ problems.
Problem 5: Disconnected Understanding of the Customer
Going hand in hand with difficulty sharing information is having only a partial view of your customers because you only have access to part of the customer data. This gives your employees the wrong impression of your customers’ needs. This gives you a segmented, limited approach to how to improve the experience for your customers.
Compartmentalizing your data leads to misinformation in the long run. Integrating your data and breaking down silos gives your employees the ability to improve the customer experience effectively and efficiently.
Problem 6: Trouble Identifying Priorities
Just because one department struggles with a particular aspect of the customer experience doesn’t mean it’s an issue for the entire company. Segmented data may make issues appear to be a company-wide problem. Keeping all your data in one place allows employees to prioritize issues on a departmental and company level.
Problem 7: Data Inaccuracy
You likely shudder at the thought of data inaccuracy, which is why it’s essential to eliminate data silos. Silos lead to multiple entries, different numbers from different departments for the same thing, and other discrepancies. As you know, accurate numbers are crucial to strategizing and planning for the future. Fragmented data threatens the accuracy of your data. Integrating your data allows you to have one set of numbers for the entire company, eliminating any guesswork or inaccuracies.
How To Break Down Silos
Once you’ve identified a silo, it’s essential to eliminate it and prevent another from taking its place. Here’s how you do it.
Analyze the Root Cause
Use a cause-and-effect analysis to determine the root cause of the silo. Start with the initial problem and work your way backward, asking, “Why did this occur?” until you uncover the issue.
For instance, let’s say the issue is “the customer had to tell the same story to three agents until someone was able to help them.” Start there and trace the chain of events to understand why the first two representatives didn’t have the information they needed to assist the customer.
Once you’ve made it to the root of the problem, you’re able to fix the issue where it begins instead of putting temporary patches over the situation.
Gain Management Buy-In
If you’re an employee in one department, share the information you found with the management team so they modify the system. The more information you present to management—where the hold-ups are, how eliminating the silo will increase efficiency—the more likely management breaks down the silos.
Get Customer Feedback
Listen to your customers, consider their journey through your sales funnel, and then adapt your system based on their responses.
Customers let you know when they’re extremely satisfied with your company and when they’re extremely unsatisfied with your company. Their insights are your guide to improving your customer experience.
Consumers appreciate feeling like you care about their interactions and experience with your brand. Showing them that you care about them individually builds brand loyalty.
Choose Your Tools Wisely
Find the right tools for gathering and analyzing data so you have a single source-of-truth database. Your tools should work to help you understand the data everyone on your team needs access to.
You can use one platform or five platforms that work together, but you must have a way for your employees to get and interpret data on demand. Some companies like to have one system that does everything, while others prefer to mix and match integrative systems. Understanding your current data hold-ups and goals for growth creates a clear path to the right tools for your business.
Clean Up Your Data
You can have the right tools, but if your data is a mess, then your tools won’t help. This task is time-consuming for businesses with a large amount of segmented data, but it’s vital to clean it up now before you continue to scale.
It’s time to wipe off the dust from those old filing cabinets and begin weeding through the data you need to keep and the data you can get rid of for good.
If you still use manual entry spreadsheets or paper trails, it’ll take longer to process and digitize your data. However, digitizing past data gives you a clear picture of your CX history.
Conduct Cross-Functional Training
Once you’ve integrated your data to eliminate silos, take the time to train your employees to use the new system. Employees who maximize the use of the company platform will provide a better experience for customers.
No matter what department they’re in, give all employees basic training in various departments. Understanding other departments’ processes and pain points offers employees the tools they need to help any customer.
If you want to retain a certain level of role segmentation, developing a problem/solution directory eliminates guesswork when trying to assist a customer.
Go beyond the initial training to encourage inter-department collaboration and communication about customers and processes.
Hold a company-wide meeting that enables your team members in various departments to share their goals and strategies. Allow your team to work as a unit to boost each other’s departments and boost overall company performance.
Data: The Fuel for Meaningful Customer Experiences
The first step to understanding the customer experience is efficiently collecting and analyzing data. Companies are turning to Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) as a solution for improving the customer experience.
CDPs record transactions, interactions, and consumer behavior patterns. The systems funnel data into reports that are easy for any businessperson to understand, allowing your employees to map out the typical customer interaction with your brand.
These systems are fueled by data and scale with your company as you grow. Employees in all departments benefit from access to a CDP interface, even though marketing and CX teams are the primary target for the tech.
CDPs provide your business with customer data integration, in-depth analytics and customer insights, content personalization, and more.
What To Look for in Data Reporting Tools
Transferring your data to an integrated reporting system requires the investment of time and money, so it’s necessary to choose the right platform the first time around. When shopping for a data reporting tool, pick a system that offers:
- Clean data capture
- Easy integration of your current data silos
- Multi-channel data visualization and accessibility
- Insights into contact center purchases, brand interactions, brand attitudes, and customer behavior
- Real-time data collection
- Simple reports that are easy to interpret
- Segmentation or integration of data with the click of a button
Aceyus as a Solution
Data silos prevent you from scaling your business at an efficient rate and hurt your CX. Identifying and breaking down silos is a great start, but using an integrated data reporting platform avoids any future silos.
As soon as you run into a data silo, begin breaking it down by identifying the root cause. Prevent future silos by encouraging inter-departmental collaboration in your workplace and bringing the entire team together to create company-wide goals.
Implementing a system that integrates your data effortlessly and automatically also prevents future silos.
What matters most is your customers. Choose the path towards customer-centricity.
Aceyus offers an all-in-one omnichannel solution for your brand. Our platform centralizes your contact center data and integrates it throughout your system. We have a one dashboard view that is easy to use and streamlines your interactions.
Aceyus helps you optimize the contact center experience by uncovering pain points and gaps in the customer’s journey. Use this data to fill those gaps and connect with your customers on a deeper level.
The sooner you begin using Aceyus, the sooner your customer experience will improve. We use contextual data to help you predict the next best action of your customers, compare historical omnichannel metrics to stay on top of trends and reduce handle times for your agents.
See how we can work for you. Contact Aceyus today to request a demo.