By Craig Harrison,
Turning Customer Service Inside Out! How Poor Internal Customer Service
Affects External Customers
While companies focus thousands of dollars on external customer service in
hopes of wooing and retaining customers, little attention is being paid to the
effect poor internal customer service has on overall customer satisfaction. It
all starts within your organization! Sooner or later the ripple effect reaches
your external customers. To really walk your service talk, your commitment to
internal customer service must match your company's external focus on customer
When we think of customer service we think of staff serving customers over a
counter or over the phone. But customer service occurs within your organization
as well. How well does staff serve its internal customers: other departments,
its management, vendors and consultants? Believe it or not, it all counts.
Internal customer service refers to service directed to others within your
organization. It refers to your level of responsiveness, quality, communication,
teamwork and morale.
I define Internal Customer Service as effectively serving other departments
within your organization. How well are you providing other departments with
service, products or information to help them do their jobs? How well are you
listening to and understanding their concerns? How well are you solving problems
for each other to help your organization succeed?
Teaming with Success How well do you work with other departments? Does your
Marketing department communicate well with the Legal department? Does sales
relate well with Shipping and Receiving? Do Catering and Facilities work well
together? When it's time to communicate with others from different departments
do you take a deep breath, or smile and relish a chance to renew contact with
colleagues from elsewhere in the company?
As a manager I once joined a publishing company and found myself in the midst
of a war between departments. Production resented Editorial for the way they
missed deadlines and delivered shoddy copy. Conversely, Editorial had little
respect for the resulting manuscripts they received back from Production, full
of errors and oversights. Poor teamwork, poor communication and myopic thinking
had led to a hardening of positions over time. They each cared about the
finished product but were putting pressure on each other without realizing it.
Over time, both groups came to appreciate each other and how to best work
together to achieve win-wins for the greater good of their customers.
Do you relish or dread committee work with other departments? Does it seem
their aims are contrary to your department's? When other departments contact you
for help do you regard it as a nuisance, a distraction and a drain of your
valuable time? Can you see the greater good that comes from helping them solve
their problems or fulfill their needs?
Take pride in opportunities to help other departments look good. Obviously,
you don't want their success to come at your expense. Usually helping others
doesn't mean you lose a zero-sum game, where only one of you can win and helping
others hurts you. In most cases helping other departments leads to a win-win
situation. And what goes around usually comes around. Helping other departments
succeed can help yours too when the roles are reversed.
Up with People Good internal customer service starts with good morale within
your group. Are your people happy? Do they feel good about themselves and their
contributions to the goals of the department and to the company at large? They
should, and effort should be made to help them do so. Happy employees are
productive, and customers take note. Happy employees are also better team
players. Will you fly the airline whose employees are striking with management,
or the airline whose employees are management? Employees invested in employee
stock purchasing plans with matching contributions see themselves as much more a
part of the company. Thus, as the company goes, so goes their lot.
When I fly out of Oakland International Airport I use an outlying parking lot
and shuttle van. This shuttle is shared by employees from Southwest Airlines,
coming to work or returning to their cars after their shifts. They are as happy
and upbeat when starting their shifts as when they're finishing shifts. That's
great morale, and tells me they like their jobs. It's contagious! Sometimes I'm
envious on that shuttle when I know I'll be checking in at another airline's
Who's On Top? Many organizational charts employ an inverted pyramid with
customers at top. Some companies instead put their employees at the top. In many
senses, the employees are management's customers. Corporate values that
emphasize treating employees well translate to good customer care too. Does your
organization value its people? Invariably, companies that care about their
people can better ask their people to care about their customers.
Catering to Customer Service Needs Here are five tips for your organization
to help strengthen its internal customer service orientation.
1. Employees should never complain within earshot of customers. It gives them
the impression your company isn't well run, shaking their confidence in you. 2.
Employees should never complain to customers about other department's employees.
Who wants to patronize a company whose people don't get along with each other?
3. Employees at every level should strive to build bridges between departments.
This can be done through cross training, joint picnics, parties or off-sites, or
creative gatherings, as well as day-to-day niceties. 4. Utilize post mortems
after joint projects so everyone can learn from the experience. You can mend
fences and gain new understandings when everyone reviews what went right...or
wrong. By doing so after the project the immediate pressure is off, yet stronger
bonds can be forged while the experience is fresh in peoples' minds. Not doing
so can result in lingering animosities that will exacerbate future
collaborations. 5. Let your employees become "Customer for a Day" to experience
firsthand what your customers experience when doing business with you.
Congratulations on turning customer service inside out! By improving internal
customer service you have just enhanced the customer service your external
customers receive. You're walking your talk regarding customer service. Touché.
Craig Harrison is a speaker, trainer, and consultant
who makes communication and customer service fun and easy for his clients. To
hear his voice, call (888) 450-0664. Otherwise you can visit his Website
www.craigspeaks.com or send e-mail to service @