Internal Customer Service: Good Intentions Gone Bad?

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    Across America, new focus has been brought upon corporate culture — perhaps the last untapped frontier for upgrading and improving corporate production and profitability. And within this new arena for advancement, we learn that we can start by having as much regard for our internal business relationships as we have for our external ones.

    In this new paradigm, the employees and vendors who collaborate on a frequent or occasional basis are considered internal ‘customers’: beneficiaries of services provided by fellow employees within an organization. This means that personnel who do not interact directly with the public can have as much concern for providing excellent “customer service” as do those who stand at the retail counter, provide technical support, or repair returned items. If salespeople can boost performance with better response times and zero defects, why can’t accounting and legal do the same for the internal departments they serve?

    This expanded perspective offers a huge step forward in an organization’s ability to appreciate and optimize all of its working parts. It also brings greater respect to each team member and department employee, ultimately resulting in improved morale, efficiency, and, yes, profitability.

    But you can wring the most benefit from it with these three additional strategies:

    1. Your external customer base should always remain number one in the eyes of the business. Making your customers happy — and keeping them happy— is paramount in maintaining and growing a business.
    2. Every employee should be able to recognize how they benefit the (external) customer. In fact, the exercise of identifying the links in the chain from employee to end customer can be enlightening and fuel further commitment to excellence on the job.
    3. Internal processes are most effective when aligned with corporate goals. When executive-level plans and targets are shared with transparency, employees can understand how their activities support specific goals for the end user: the most important “customer.” Alignment with customer-centric goals prevents you from generating initiatives that might soothe a few internal dynamics but that distract from or diminish efforts to provide best value to the public.

    Bringing internal customer service practices to your organization may be a path of good intentions, and you may easily reap the rewards. But it can also backfire if you lose sight of one customer while serving the other.

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