Skip to content

How to Improve Interdepartmental Relationships

Internal customers


Every organization seeks to provide an exceptional customer experience, understanding its obvious importance in fostering loyalty and driving retention. Companies like Amazon epitomize this mentality as Jeff Bezos notes: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

While few will argue that we need to understand what makes our customers tick, there is a frequently overlooked, yet equally critical relationship and mindset that impacts the service experience we deliver: How we interact with and treat our colleagues, also known as “internal” customers.

While this can have an enormous impact on the level and quality of customer experience organizations can provide, as companies grow, there is a natural progression towards the creation of internal silos as responsibilities become decentralized.

Legendary Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, pioneered the “Work Out” process to circumvent and overcome the challenges presented by organizational boundaries. While this concept was relatively new 30 years ago, the impact of internal boundaries has proven to be a particularly daunting nut to crack. The challenges presented by silos are still very prevalent today.

Complications of a Siloed Organization

Heavily structured and hierarchical organizations, consisting of multiple internal segments, each with a role to play in the customer experience, often create communication and collaboration challenges that end up impacting the level and quality of service provided to our customers.

Often, in response to the corporate demands to demonstrate measurable return-on-investment (ROI), function leaders create and optimize their own workflow and processes to help ensure costs are held in check and productivity is maximized. This often manifests itself in the creation of policies and procedures that help users within that team function at a very high level but can create frustration and confusion when interdepartmental collaboration is required.

This can be particularly challenging in matrixed organizations where there is a frequent cross team, multidisciplinary collaboration. For example, prioritizing outside requests, translating needs, and assigning budget dollars are just a few of the common pitfalls when teams are required to work cross-functionally in a heavily siloed environment.

Interdepartmental Communication Barriers

Consider the case where “Dan” works in customer insights and would like to be able to tie key client firmographics to his Net Promoter System results, helping enhance the insights and actionability of the data.

Dan reaches out to his internal Account team leadership and asks where this information might reside and how he can access it to link to his survey results. He is told it should all reside in the company’s CRM, but he will need someone in IT to get an export in the format he needs for his use.

Dan contacts IT. They aren’t familiar with the content or the exact nature of the fields Dan is looking for but can certainly export a recent update. But to make that happen, Dan needs to complete the required form creating the business case to build a data table (IT considers Dan’s request to be “out of scope” and requires a custom run to be scheduled).

Dan accesses the form, not entirely sure of the technical information they are requesting, but also notices he needs to indicate the IT budget “dollars” and cost center associated with this ask. As he is from customer insights, he has no IT budget on his team…Dan is stuck.

This example shows us how a straightforward ask (appending customer information) aimed at enhancing our understanding of our customers to ultimately provide better service can often be stymied when silos exist without integration across teams.

No one is doing anything wrong or intentionally throwing up roadblocks, but each group has a role and they were not designed to function holistically, just exist individually. We are the embodiment of the proverbial “a camel is a horse created by committee.”

The Interdepartmental Survey

One of the first steps in overcoming the negative impacts of silos is to identify and understand them. This requires gathering internal feedback from colleagues to accurately assess the nature and extent of the impact internal barriers are having on your organization.

In our example earlier, its hard to know if Dan’s experience was unique or if variations of his issues are present for other teams as well. Conducting an Interdepartmental Survey would help identify soft spots in the processes that may be present and point towards needed solutions.

But seeking feedback from colleagues can often be a delicate, tricky matter. While you want employees to feel comfortable opening up and sharing their true feelings, they can be reluctant to do so in a company-administered interview.

This is where working with an impartial, third-party firm can help ensure open, honest feedback that accurately measures your company’s culture and environment. Satrix Solutions has decades of experience and expertise in designing and administering employee surveys, and more importantly, helping you take meaningful actions for your organization.

Benefits of Strong Interdepartmental Relationships

The benefits of understanding your employees and creating a culture that supports and motivates them pays dividends to your organization. That’s because employees who feel supported by their company and peers are more likely to take pride and ownership of their roles. And, they will go the extra mile for their colleagues, which contributes to the “party” hosted by Amazon.

As renowned author Stephen Covey reminded us, “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”