Internal Customer Service

“Right or wrong, the customer is always right.”
Marshall Field

“To my customer, I may not have the answer, but I’ll find it.
I may not have the time, but I’ll make it.”

“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that
is really worth doing is what we do for others.”
Lewis Carol

Since the demise of the full service gas station, customer service has evolved.  There was a time when you walked into a car dealership and you were pounced upon by any and all unengaged sales people.   Now the sales “consultants” acknowledge one’s presence by offering “Let me know if you have any questions”, while giving buyers more space to browse their automotive choices.

Even today, however, there is also the recognition that customer service has a huge impact on sales and long-term relationships with customers.  In 2009 a study noted that “Across 12 surveyed industries (and every generation of consumers), good customer service was selected more frequently than low prices as being important.”

The Customer Experience Impact 2010 Report revealed that 82% of consumers in the U.S. said they stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience.  Of these, 73% cited rude staff as the primary pain point, and 55% said a company’s failure to resolve their problems in a timely manner drove them away.

Subsequently, we are trained to provide exemplary service to our customers.  We are encouraged to:

  • Be courteous (especially with a disgruntled customer)
  • Be responsive
  • Listen
  • Go the extra mile (focusing on the long term relationship as opposed to the short-term gain)

What I am wondering though is… do we espouse that same perspective with the people we work alongside everyday?

Internal Customer Service

In today’s competitive but beleaguered marketplace companies still need to compete.  Competition requires teamwork and teamwork demands not only focusing on performing better than your competitors but being responsive to the members of your own team to achieve that goal.  Do you consider coworkers who come to you with questions or departments that rely on yours for product as customers?

Internal customer service is another way of looking at interpersonal and interdepartmental communication within your company.  When an employee approaches HR with a question about insurance or their remaining vacation or when a production department needs Maintenance to repair a piece of equipment so the line can continue making widgets, the timeliness, courtesy and quality of the responses can strengthen or weaken the working relationship and the team.

In the marketplace a customer can move to a competitor if they receive poor customer service.  However, that is not a choice within an organization.  An employee can’t go to the “other” HR department down the street and production cannot call in a competing maintenance crew.

You Want It When?

We’ve all seen the cartoon where everyone is rolling on the floor and the caption is: “You want it when?”  Most of us find that funny until we encounter a situation where our own request is responded to in that manner.  Now, imagine if questions and requests were met with that approach inside your organization.  You may not leave the company but your willingness to communicate with an individual or a department may diminish.  That could affect not only the relationship but the team and possibly your goals, the team’s goals and those of the company as a whole.

The Golden Rule

By broadening the concept of good customer service to include those you work with daily you can improve and preserve working relationships and overall performance by meeting others’ needs as if they were your own.  Granted, it may take addressing personality conflicts and inter-departmental relations but that is what teamwork and goals require.  It will also require that someone takes the “high road” and initiates this change in paradigm to get the ball rolling.  Since most effective change begins at the top, managers need to model effective internal customer service.

I believe there is some validity to the observation that customer service may be a dying art.  Every day we expect to be treated courteously.  As a customer we expect service that meets our needs.  Inside our organizations the same relationships and expectations exist.   However, do we always take the same approach with our coworkers that we are trained for and strive to provide to our customers who sometimes are complete strangers?

Next time a coworker, team member or department comes to you with a request think of them as your customer.  They may not “always be right” but they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Here to serve,

John Duba

Next Month: “Thinking Inside the Box”

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