The Importance of Internal Customer Service

Everyone who has ever had a job understands what customer service is and why it’s important. Great customer service keeps the cash flow up, and bad customer service interrupts it.

But, who is your customer?

If you’re not leading a “client facing” team, do you even have a customer? Most likely, the answer is yes. Despite the fact that you may or may not deal directly with the consumers of your product or service, you do deal directly with at least one other team or group. That “at least one other team” is, in fact, your customer.

Identifying Your Customer

If you don’t deal directly with the customers outside of the business, you deal with customers inside. You may be thinking,

“Wait, if they’re inside the business, they aren’t really a customer. They’re a co-worker, right?”

Sure they are, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also a type of customer. If you consider that a customer is someone you provide a service to, then you have to include those customers whom you work with internally.

For examples, if you work for the IT department, then you provide a service to anyone who uses technology within the company. Most likely, the vast majority of people at your place of work use a computer, printer, or phone. All of these people should be considered your team’s customer.

A Brilliant Assist is Part of Making the Goal

Imagine if any inquiry made of you or your team was treated as a customer request rather than an annoyance. In that case, you would make that request a priority, and fulfill it to the best of your abilities. In providing this great service, the team who made the request will be able to perform their jobs better. Communication between the two teams would most likely improve and internal processes between them would be smooth.

Consider this; an external customer would like to create a highly specialized order with sales, but isn’t sure how to do it. They are relying on the Sales Representative to order the parts correctly to complete their vision and fulfill their need. In order for Sales to provide excellent customer service and ensure the external customer is satisfied, they send an inquiry to the Engineering team.

In this case, Sales is the internal customer and the Engineers are the service provider. If the Engineers find the inquiry to be unimportant and annoying, they won’t provide great customer service to Sales. This will affect Sales negatively, as they won’t be able to provide the customer with a Satisfaction Guaranteed product. Most likely, the order will have mistakes and Sales will have to eat the cost and fix their error. Depending on the order, this could cost the company 10-100,000 dollars, possibly even more.

Now, let’s say you’re the manager of the Engineering team, and you recognized Sales as your customer and committed yourself and, in turn, your team to providing great customer service. You set the pace by establishing the priority level of the inquiry. Because you see Sales as your customer, you set up best practices for your team and make sure they are executed at the highest level.

Your service-oriented attitude will unwittingly provide the framework for a more customer friendly attitude within your team. Suddenly, the inquiry becomes important and necessary, and the request is met in a thorough and timely manner. Sales is then able to fulfill the external customer’s order appropriately and the company makes money on the deal rather than loses it. And, on top of all of that, you get a huge pat on the back by your boss because, not only did you represent the Engineering team well, you made him look good in the process for saving the company money and satisfying the external customer.

Brilliance translates to ALL the bottom lines!

Considering the numbers in this example, it’s just smart business to have great internal customer service. It’s not about holding hands and singing around a campfire; it’s about providing great service to your co-workers so they, the company, and ultimately you, are successful. If HR’s main server is down and it’s time to run payroll, IT should treat HR like they would an external customer.

That means there’s no pointing fingers, no lolly-gagging, and no blowing things out of proportion. Instead, IT should be responsive, understanding, and informative. Having a room full of inoperational HR folks and resentful IT members is unproductive and costs a lot of money, not to mention time.

Internal or external, great customer service is business imperative.

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