By: Tracey Campagna – Customer Service Representative, USA Region
If an employee can think of their colleagues as internal customers, the work they do and the attitude with which they do it, would change dramatically.
Everyone works for the customer, but a large number of employees don’t ever communicate directly with them. Production employees, maintenance, IT, team leaders and many others never have direct customer contact. But these individuals work with their fellow employees every day. A Customer Service Representative might rarely have contact with the customer but work daily with the Customer Relationship Manager who does.
When we’re in the middle of several projects and another employee makes a request of us, we may feel somewhat overwhelmed. But if we decide to treat the person “interrupting” like they are a customer, then the entire interaction would change completely. You would always conduct yourself professionally with a customer. You would never tell a customer you’re “too busy” or wait days to respond to a request. You would manage the situation positively, professionally and in a timely manner.
As written in Entrepreneur.com by Scott Miller: “… these things can be seen as interruptions that take us away from our “real” jobs, yet they are vital to our company’s success. If you see a gap between your “real” job and the needs of others in your organization, you need to rethink what your real job is. In helping others in your company, you help your company succeed. Superior internal customer service improves morale, productivity, employee retention, external customer service and, ultimately, profitability.
Eva Nye, Manager, Client Experience at Valid in the USA had this to say: “When we talk and respond to fellow Valid employees as we would to external customers, we help to change the culture of the organization to a customer centric one. Every request between internal team members is one driven by a customer need and, thus, rather than being treated as a nuisance, the request should always be treated from a customer service perspective…it’s a shift in mindset to ‘I am responding to you as I would to an external customer’.”
In regards to profitability, Joanne Wortman of Integrify.com notes that “…some hidden costs of poor internal customer service are less direct. The Sales Order Management team is an internal customer that requires the sales team to hand them complete and correct order information. Delay in order processing reduces cash flow, and may result in a customer cancelling the sale.” Incomplete or incorrect information can also lead to errors which may result in expensive re-runs.
The first of the 10 Principles of Internal Customer Service written by Micah Solomon of Forbes.com states, “Without each other, there is no company. By serving our fellow employees, we empower them to serve their customers, and make magic happen.”
By improving your internal customer service skills, you gain respect and increase your value with others and within your organization as being someone both knowledgeable and approachable.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you have to drop everything to do what has been requested of you by your fellow team members. It means you need to manage your response, prioritize it and treat is as equally important as any other aspect of your job. Even if it simply means responding immediately to say that you’ll get back to them in a certain time frame, and then, keep to that timeline.
Suggestions to improve your internal customer service:
- Be available / accessible. Are you someone people can go to for help, or do you send a clear signal that says “Do Not Disturb”?
- Be honest and straight forward. If what someone is asking seems like more than you can manage, talk about it and see if you can be helpful in a different way. Or let them know how you are able to help.
- Maintain a positive attitude. It’s hard to be positive all the time but when you make an effort, it shows. Someone with a constant negative attitude is not approachable.
- Practice active listening. Make sure you understand what’s being asked of you and don’t jump to conclusions before they even have a chance to explain their needs.
- Follow through. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you can’t meet the deadline or promise, let them know immediately.
We all have internal customers. Responding to them like you would external customers improves relationships and comes with significant benefits to the company. So, the next time a colleague requests something of you and you find yourself feeling bothered, try to consider how you would react if it was a direct customer making the request. If you would respond differently, then that is probably the perfect time to start changing your behavior.
- Forbes.com – Jan 20 2017 – Micah Solomon https://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2017/01/20/internal-customer-service-best-practices-these-ten-principles-will-transform-your-company-culture/#eba0f746cec9
- Entrepreneur.com – May 13, 2002 – Scott Miller – https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/51804
- Integrify.com – December 19, 2016 – Joanne Wortman – https://www.integrify.com/blog/posts/hidden-costs-poor-internal-customer-service/
- Eva Nye, Manager, Client Experience at Valid (U.S.) – email@example.com