Imagine you’ve finally arrived at your hotel after a red-eye flight and you’re looking forward to taking a nap before your two-day conference kicks off that evening. When you booked the room, the sales rep assured you that you’d be able to check in after 2 p.m., but the front desk clerk tells you the room won’t be ready until 4. You’re left with two frustrating options: Try to get some rest on the couch in the noisy hotel lobby, or reach for your third cup of coffee.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a less than satisfying customer experience.

Most of the time, these customer service failures are the result of a disconnect between departments—and they’re largely preventable.

When customers see a disjointed approach, companies lose credibility and potentially lose business.

To deliver the best possible experience, aligning sales and marketing and your customer service departments is crucial. Large matrix-style organizations have a tendency to struggle with this due to their more complex structures. At the highest level, the key is to reduce uncertainty in a matrix by establishing shared goals, clear roles and transparent communication.

Here are three practical steps your company can take to accomplish this.

1. Assess Your Current Processes

Your company cannot begin to make improvements until you’ve identified your weaknesses. Assessments allow your organization to take a holistic view of your processes and evaluate how cohesive they are in terms of delivering on the customer’s expectations.

The GRID Survey is a helpful way to identify gaps in your organization’s communication or processes and provide a framework for addressing them. This research-based online survey of the factors required to make the matrix work provides a thorough assessment of where your team is performing well when working across boundaries and where improvement is needed.

2. Build a Culture of Collaboration

Considering the unique challenges that come with leading matrix organizations and, in particular, leading virtual teams, it is more important than ever for leaders to facilitate collaboration across organizational boundaries.

Developing relationships and establishing trust among team members are foundations to ensuring good collaboration, and this should be an ongoing effort. In addition, team leaders should:

  • Use the RACI Matrix to clarify decision authority (Ex.—Determine which person within each department must review and approve marketing emails to current customers)
  • Align performance management systems to support the shared outcome of the team (Ex.—Reward both your sales and marketing teams for the number of new customers you acquire)
  • Use collaborative tools, such as project management software, shared documents and a transparent project schedule (Ex.—Maintain a shared GoogleDocs folder of all important documents needed to complete a team assignment)

Collaboration is a fragile state that requires constant attention, but it is a necessary element of ensuring alignment.

3. Establish Service Level Agreements to Measure Progress of Goals

After assessing gaps and laying the foundation for collaboration, your company can begin to create a more effective process. The best way to do this is by creating a Service Level Agreement (SLA) among the sales, marketing and customer service teams.

In a Service Level Agreement, each department sets monthly or quarterly goals that will support the success of the group as a whole. This agreement will define how goals will be measured and make data available to all stakeholders. Your company or cross-functional team should meet on a regular basis to review each department’s progress and discuss any issues that may stand in the way of achieving those goals.

Every team member should be aware of the key performance indicators (KPIs), or the metrics that will define success for your organization. They may be slightly different for each department, but they should all measure progress toward achieving the same big-picture objectives.

The agreement should clearly outline the definitions and targets for the KPIs within each group.

When your sales, marketing and customer service teams are in alignment, your customers enjoy a more seamless, satisfying experience. It’s an experience customers have come to expect with the rise of nimble start-up companies that have built their business model on this kind of integration.

Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Shopify already excel at this, and larger, matrix-style organizations can take a cue from them.

To learn more about how your company can borrow from the best practices of these top performing companies, download this short guide, “Aligning Your Company on Customer Values.”