Want Better Customer Experience? Create a Cross-Functional Team

Christine Reyes
4 min readDec 20, 2016


In a recent study, 46% of financial institution executives stated that the number one obstacle to addressing the full customer lifecycle is allowing different business units to own different parts of the lifecycle.

That’s almost half of financial institutions surveyed. The next answer — lacking digital capabilities — was only chosen by 17% of participants. As digital transformation strategies continue to motivate financial services to deliver exceptional customer experiences, it will be increasingly important to ensure that those experiences are consistent across the full customer lifecycle. Rather than dividing ownership, financial institutions need to create and empower cross-functional digital teams to address a holistic customer lifecycle, from prospect to buyer to advocate.

Understanding the Problem With Multiple Owners
You may look at the silos in customer lifecycle ownership and think, so what? Each department has its own specialized information and experience on how to help customers at different points in their journey. As long as the handoff to each department is smooth, what’s the problem?

When these departmental divides remain, it becomes easy to create data silos that negatively impact your customer experience. For example, a customer service rep may learn from a client that she hasn’t been able to use the mobile banking app to apply for the credit card she needs. If the customer service rep doesn’t share that information with the developers in charge of the mobile app, that part of the customer experience continues to fall short. It doesn’t matter how fantastic a job the customer service rep is doing if customers are leaving due to a bad experience on their smartphone. Likewise, the development team may not know about this feedback if the customer service reps are the only ones receiving it. Financial institutions are better served by sharing information among departments and allowing a cross-functional team to lead the digital strategy.

What is a Cross-Functional Team?
A cross-functional digital team is one that brings together representatives from different departments, such as IT, marketing, product development and sales. When working on a strategy to improve customer experience across the entire lifecycle, having input from each department allows you to understand gaps, as well as understand how changing one part of the experience affects the rest of the business.

Unfortunately, cross-functional teams are difficult to manage because they bring together people who aren’t used to working with one another. An article on Harvard Business Review showed that 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional, failing on at least three out of five of the following criteria: Staying on budget, staying on schedule, adhering to specifications, meeting customer expectations and maintaining alignment with company goals.

Despite the challenges, 41% of financial leaders believe that cross-functional digital teams should own the customer lifecycle. In addition to having specific knowledge, members of a cross-functional team are able to lead the charge within their departments, ensuring buy-in across the organization.

5 Strategies for Working Together as a Cross-Functional Team

  1. Set objectives and scope. Each team member will have different priorities that will eventually conflict. By agreeing on goals and objectives for the team early on, you begin with an understanding of how each department’s priorities align with the team’s overall priorities.
  2. Develop a process for collaboration. Identify specifically how the team will collaborate in order to set clear expectations from the beginning. Who contributes what? What does effective team communication look like? What does success look like?
  3. Be prepared for different personalities. It’s something of a cliche, but different business units tend to attract different personality types. By spending time understanding the work styles in the room, teams can create norms, such as how little notice is acceptable before calling a meeting, how much communication between meetings to expect, whether team members can take part by phone, etc.
  4. Give it time. It is normal to go through an adjustment process before the team begins to perform well. Spend some time learning about the different stages of team forming and discuss as a group.
  5. Start small. McKinsey recommends starting with a small team that understands brand and business goals to design the initial strategy, then scaling with more technology folks as you progress. This is useful if you need time to conduct research on the current status of your customer experience.

Final Takeaway
Financial institution executives agree that cross-functional teams need to own the customer lifecycle, if companies are to become digitally mature. Creating a seamless customer experience requires a unified view of the customer, one that takes into account their interactions at every part of the lifecycle. It’s difficult work, but ultimately worth the competitive advantages it creates.

This article was originally posted on the Liferay blog on October 20, 2016.