improve cross functional teams

4 Ways to Improve Cross-Functional Relationships

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While contact center agents typically serve as the face of the company, we know that there are many internal functions that influence a customer’s experience. A contact center can have the best technology and most proficient agents, but without effective relationships with other organizational functions, the contact center will not be able to deliver the ideal customer journey. There are four easy ways that contact center leaders can improve relationships across functions to streamline processes, foster a culture of understanding, and educate and develop employees to enhance the customer experience.

1. Cross-functional job shadowing

Cross-functional job shadowing positively contributes to a culture of understanding. It’s natural that every function thinks that their role is more complex and challenging than the other roles in the company.

For example …

“Those customer service representatives (CSRs) don’t understand the logistics of getting this product out the door! Don’t they know we only have a defined amount of capacity!?” – Warehouse & Shipping Coordinator

Why can’t the guys in the warehouse & shipping department get these orders out the door? It can’t be that hard!” – CSR

However, once employees from one function shadow another, they have a better appreciation for each other’s processes, challenges and limitations. Additionally, viewing each other’s processes from an outsider’s perspective often results in the identification of process or communication improvements.

Through shadowing, the CSR might identify that a daily communication from the warehouse team to customer service related to their order capacity would help the CSRs set more realistic delivery expectations to customers. Similarly, the Warehouse & Shipping Coordinator might identify that communication from customer service on upcoming promotions would empower the warehouse to better anticipate and staff for the resulting influx of orders.

The mutual understanding resulting from shadowing improves the working dynamic, and most importantly, reduces cross-functional finger-pointing.

2. Work together to create SLAs for communication

Regardless of role, there are times when an employee’s ability to resolve a customer issue, fill an order or complete a task is dependent on an answer from another function. Contact centers are great at setting Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for communication with their customers. However, we often overlook the fact that there are “internal customers” too, and that responsiveness to internal requests is just as critical.

For that reason, functions should work together to define SLAs for internal communication, and continuously measure each function’s performance against those goals. This exercise promotes a culture of professional courtesy, and sends the message that each function respects the time and efforts of the other. Employees should be coached towards adhering to these SLAs, like they are for the external customer’s. If each function is prompt and treats internal requests with the appropriate level of urgency, then the entire organization will be better positioned to deliver on those important customer SLAs.

3. Communicate functional initiatives early and often

Operating in silos and failing to communicate cross-functionally often leads to a duplication of efforts or project rework. If you are anticipating changes, make sure to communicate those plans to adjacent or downstream functions.

Some examples of small changes that often lead to cross-functional conflict include:

  • Implementing a new system in the contact center for order processing/creating service requests
    • Could result in a change to the output used by other functions to fulfill those orders or service requests
  • Starting a post-call survey initiative in the contact center
    • Could conflict with or duplicate post-sale surveys conducted by marketing, and lead to customer survey-fatigue
  • Changes made by marketing to product bundles
    • May require changes in the order processing system in the contact center, or impact how the warehouse picks and packs the orders.

Engaging downstream functions during the decision-making process and implementation will allow them to provide input and make any necessary changes to their own processes. It will also ensure that their employees are trained and educated, and will avoid disruption in customer service. If effective and timely cross-functional communication happens on the front end of a change, you will avoid the unnecessary fires post-change.

4. Create shared, cross-functional goals for employees

If your employees participate in an annual or quarterly goal setting process, work with leaders from other functions to create some mutual goals for your employees. These joint goals across teams can foster effective working relationships and solve cross-functional business problems.

For example, if there is a process that touches various teams that needs remapping, the leaders from those teams can create a common goal to accomplish this task. Then each can include that business goal on the quarterly development plan of one of their direct reports. The joint ownership of the resulting process would help drive process adoption, would ensure that the new process considers all function’s needs, and build working relationships that extend into everyday cross-functional activities.

The customer journey relies on everyone working together for a positive experience, and thinking about the entire process end-to-end, not just within your department, can enhance this experience.