In any business, keeping your customers satisfied is always at the top of your list. It’s what keeps the business running and what keeps the customers coming back. These are mainly external customers, but what about the internal ones that the company also has to serve? Contrary to popular belief, businesses actually have more than one customer to serve. Whether you’re in the manufacturing, food service, medical, outsource staffing, entertainment, or whatever industry, you also serve internal customers that you also need to keep happy just as much as your external customers.
So what are these clients that have remained unheard of until now? Let’s discuss what internal customer service is and why you need to treat them with the same respect and care as your external customers.
Who Are Internal Customers?
As the name suggests, internal customers are those who the company also serves but are situated within the organization itself. These are your employees that work day and night to keep your business running smoothly all the time. Your employees have their own needs that only their employer and the company itself can address. Both external and internal customers are vital to a company’s success. Unfortunately, internal clients are often ignored or are not seen as a customer.
External customers are the people who pay you for using your products and services. Whenever these people have queries or complaints, your customer service department looks after them. One of the reasons why you started your company is to serve these people.
Internal customers, on the other hand, are any stakeholders in the company that you serve. These are your temporary workers, contractors, or full-time employees that depend on each other to undertake the company’s job. What most businesses need to understand is they also depend on the leaders of the company to take good care of them.
How Can You Tell Internal from External Customer Service?
Keeping your employees always happy and productive goes into their overall employee experience in your company. Internal customer service also works the same way. It is an integral part of the employee experience as it solves your employees’ problems, helping them maintain an effective workflow.
For example, any new employee will have to be issued their own workspace, computer, email, and login credentials to start working. HR will also create an employee profile to keep track of their salary, tenure, attendance, and overall performance. HR and payroll will then make sure that the new employee receives wages and benefits on time, the same as your other employees. These services are all part of the internal customer service that you provide to your employees.
You can easily identify such a service as it is not directly customer-facing and involves more than one team member in the transactions. Basically, every department in your company that provides a support function to other departments can be considered internal customer service like HR, payroll, facility management, IT, marketing, etc.
Why Is Internal Customer Service Important?
Any responsible business owner should always aim to deliver excellent service, whether it is to their clients or employees. Doing so requires a solid commitment to providing exceptional service regardless of who they’re serving. By delivering strong internal customer service, you keep your employees happy, make them more productive, and that they perform their best to contribute to the company. You can expect increased employee retention and increased company cohesiveness when your employees are all happy at what they do.
Remember, both your internal and external customers become satisfied when their expectations are met or exceeded. While providing excellent external customer service is an enjoyable and fulfilling job, doing the same for your employees can be just as or even more satisfying.
Internal Customer Service Best Practices
Whether it’s an IT desk, HR department, outsource staffing, or another form of internal customer service, these teams need to understand their role in the organization. Here are some of the best practices you can incorporate in your organization and teach your support staff so they can provide better internal customer service.
1. Create a Culture of Service
It all starts with creating a culture in your organization that rewards respectful behavior, professionalism, and politeness amongst employees. Those traits are integral to nurturing a culture of service to their fellow employees and, by extension, to your external customers.
You can do this by sending email blasts on office etiquettes or running communication workshops. If anyone is displaying unprofessional behavior, they should be actively and swiftly penalized.
2. Set Clear Expectations
Customer service support representatives always set expectations for any customers they talk to as part of their training. The same goes for organizations with the goal of providing great service to their internal customers. When an employee has a problem, you must set clear expectations on what can be done and when it will be resolved. Even if you end up giving an answer that isn’t ideal for them, it’s essential to be transparent so employees can plan their workflow accordingly.
3. Encourage People to Do More for Each Other
Encourage employees to move out of their assigned positions and help fellow employees when they are temporarily short-staffed or just need a helping hand. This is called lateral service, which encourages people to do more for each other when they can.
4. Keep a Conversational Tone
Since your support teams work with employees and internal stakeholders, they can skip the formalities when it comes to communication. Of course, they should still address their bosses and stakeholders in an appropriate, professional manner, but they don’t have to communicate the same way they would with a customer. This helps create a more relaxed atmosphere in the workplace where your employees can feel safe and comfortable while they work. Maintaining a casual, friendly tone will build a stronger rapport with your employees.
5. What Gets Celebrated Gets Repeated
Don’t underestimate the little achievements your employees and teams are able to accomplish. These little victories should be celebrated and acknowledged in front of other teams as a form of recognition. While it helps hard-working employees feel better about themselves and their work, it could also encourage and inspire other people to follow their steps. Make it a point to celebrate small victories every now and then to inspire further success.
External customers have been inherent in business ever since the concept of making and selling products was invented. But the idea of an internal customer is a modern one and is often overlooked by many companies. Understanding what internal customer service is and how important it is to any organization tells the difference between a profitable business to a successful one.
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