Woman sitting in a chair in empty conference hall.
PHOTO: goami

Silos are a stubbornly persistent problem within organizations. They lead to incomplete data, ineffective decision-making and disjointed thinking — all of which hurt an organization’s ability to focus holistically on customer experience.

And yet, the ability to effectively shape customer experience (CX) is becoming increasingly important. In 2022, a staggering 88% of customers said the experience a company provides is as important as the product or service, up from 80% in 2020.

Customer-Centric Culture Change Starts With the UX Collaboration

“Companies that prioritize design get in return increased loyalty, better stock performance, higher revenues, and larger valuations,” according to Forrester research. As we approach a period of global economic uncertainty, even if customers spend less, they are highly unlikely to dial down their expectations around customer experience. There’s never been more at stake for CX.

UX teams have a pivotal role to play in driving CX success, and one of the biggest battlegrounds is in overcoming organizational silos in order to deliver improved CX. When we talk about UX teams, it’s worth remembering that very often the UX “team” really comprises one lone UX pro. Most UX leaders have at some point been that “UX team of one.” It’s a privileged position to hold, but as CX increasingly becomes a condition of survival in today’s connected world, the pressure is on these UX leaders as never before to drive customer-centric design principles into the heart of their organization.

Related Article: CX vs. UX: What's the Difference, and Why Does It Matter?

How Many Product People Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

There are many ways to guide and inform product teams to widen their perspective when it comes to CX design. Let’s consider a relatively simple challenge like changing a lightbulb.

Imagine a user reaches out to you because their lightbulb has blown, and they need to change it. They tried changing it already using a short stool, but they couldn’t reach it. Now they need some additional help. One solution might be to send someone who has the tools to change the lightbulb. Another idea might be to provide the user with a stepladder so they could reach the fixture themselves.

Both solutions work, in the narrow sense that the lightbulb will get replaced. But neither explores the reason why the user needed the lightbulb changed, nor considers the hassle factor (read: poor customer experience) involved in having to replace lightbulbs in the future.

Upon delving deeper, we might learn that this particular user loves to read in this room and that is primarily why they needed the lightbulb replaced. Could other solutions achieve the same desired effect: additional light sources, more windows and exposure to daylight, or an e-reader that didn’t require a light at all?

Why Cross-Team Collaboration Is a Competitive Imperative

When teams fail to consider the bigger picture customer experience, not only do they end up solving the wrong problems, but they also potentially miss the big opportunities. Only by taking a holistic view of the customer did companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Airbnb conquer their markets and raise the bar when it comes to customer service.

To achieve this, companies need to ensure their data is integrated and accessible. After all, how can you obtain a unified view of the customer with disparate, incomplete or inaccessible data?

Related Article: 2022: The Year of Holistic Customer Experience

How to Start Collaborating More Effectively with CX and UX

Encouraging cross-functional working practices, respecting diverse perspectives, and promoting a shared understanding of customer-centric goals — these are just some of the ambitious goals associated with a drive to improve cross-team collaboration. It’s a big task. To quote Gartner’s Chad Storlie, “Organization-wide CX strategy consensus does not just appear overnight.”

Without senior backing and a serious strategic push, entrenched organizational silos will be hard to break down. However, UX leaders — even if they’re a “team of one” — are ideally placed to drive that culture change. The answer lies in taking baby steps. Encouraging cross-functional collaboration and promoting a shared understanding of goals are worthy, necessary and longer-term aims. However, quick wins and small gains can have a disproportionately significant effect on how teams work.

Success often depends on winning over team members with incremental shifts that introduce new UX methods without unbalancing the established way of working. Starting with small changes influences rather than overwhelms those new to UX — for example introducing UX design basics like Gestalt Principles or usability heuristics. These activities allow team members to experiment and discover for themselves how product design can be adapted.

The work of doing great UX isn’t solely relegated to just the “UX” person. It’s a team effort that brings together perspectives from cross-functional team members who are all aligned on delivering the very best product focused on human-centered design principles.

Another effective driver of CX collaboration is to educate the wider team on the standards that govern UX design. Some of these — style and brand guidelines — will be specific to the organization, but others require compliance by law (ADA, for example).

Reaping the CX Benefits of Cross-Team Collaboration

There are many reasons technical, structural and cultural silos develop within organizations. Often, silos come about in periods of accelerated growth, such as during times of rapid company growth, during the acquisition of another brand, or through incentives that, by encouraging healthy competition, also foster territorial behavior between teams. In the long run, however, they slow companies down.

One of the most damaging ways that silos hurt businesses is by impeding good customer experience. Little wonder, then, that savvy UX teams are looking at ways to drive customer-centric design thinking into every aspect of product development. Great customer experience starts with cross-team collaboration. UX leaders have a pivotal role to play in enabling key stakeholders to share resources, knowledge and ideas.