Disband your departments? Ok, I might be a little dramatic with that statement – but the underlying message is true; departmentalising your teams has one outcome and that is poor customer service.
The problem with departments
Departments aren’t fluid, they have boundaries and between boundaries you get gaps. Historically that was OK and has worked for many many years. There are benefits – departments help define roles and responsibilities and pre-digital that worked. The problem is with the digital world people expect more transparency and more fluidity. Let’s, as an example, imagine I’m a customer buying widgets – historically if I wanted to buy I’d speak to sales, if I wanted to pay I’d speak to finance and if I needed something fixing I’d speak to operations and never the twain shall meet.
Fast forward to now… I buy my widgets online. To enable me to buy, pay, book servicing, check my account etc I do it all via an online portal. Whose responsibility is that? Which single department does it fit in? The answer is it doesn’t – it’s up to Sales, Finance and Ops all to play their part and those parts will undoubtedly overlap; on top of that we need to add in the digital and IT teams at least. No one department can run it or own it individually, but without them all pulling together the portal fails.
The way consumers buy has changed too – we all expect continual customer service. We’re not happy with just experiencing the polished service pre-purchase – if you buy a car, you want the after sales service and communication to be just as good (if not better) than what you received initially. We’re a fickle bunch, who are no longer brand loyal – we’ll swap provider at the first sign of something not going the way we want.
This diagram may be a little simplistic, but hopefully it shows how we see the customer journey in a departmentalised format – with gaps that lose customers…
Digital is blending the departmental lines
We’re lucky to be at the forefront of digital and what our clients are doing in a digital world. So, we understand how working online can help blur the department lines and ensure that customer service is a constant – a continual core to everything a company does.
By companies educating their employees how they need to work together they create ownership of the whole process. Ownership is key to this success, it’s not just ownership of what you did historically (finance, sales or after sales etc) but ownership of the customer.
So, what’s the answer?
OK, internally, departments will need to probably continue to exist if we’re being honest – but to a customer they shouldn’t and it should be a unified journey when they interact with you digitally. The more we can interact with clients online (but of course without losing too much of a human touch), the fewer gaps in service you’ll deliver, the more seamless your offering is and ultimately the better customer service you offer.