Internal Customer Relationship Management
We know that there are two kinds of customers: Internal and External. Internal customers are the people with whom we work – and we rely on them to help us meet the company’s objectives. What do we do, when internal customer relations go awry? The principles of providing exceptional customer service do not change when dealing with internal customers, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that the people in our workplace are our customers too! The basic needs of a customer are especially important to remember and implement when considering your co-workers.
The Six Needs of a Customer are:
1. To be informed
2. To be in control
3. To have choices
4. For customer service reps to be friendly,
5. Knowledgeable, and
Are you keeping your internal customers in the know? You may think you don’t have time to talk to everyone in your office or place of business about what is going on, but uniformed customers are unhappy and uncooperative customers. Hold a brief team meeting to bring everyone up to speed. Take a few moments to jot down a memo, or send out an email to keep people updated. With everyone on the same page, work will flow more smoothly.
Are you telling your co-workers or staff what to do and how to do it? Or are you explaining to them what needs to be done, then empowering them to find the best way to accomplish the goal? Do you collaborate as a team, or is every man an island to himself? Remember customers need to feel in control, and this is no different for the workers in your organization. You can facilitate that feeling by giving direction, then enabling your staff to do what they do best.
Offer choices. While it is important to delegate tasks, most people don’t appreciate having work delegated to them without their input or consent. You can avoid being the target of resentment by explaining what needs to be done, then asking for help. A true team will evaluate the task at hand, and those with the expertise AND the time available will typically step up. Should this not happen, don’t panic! Explain that you realize everyone is swamped, and ask the question, “How can we get this done without any one person feeling overwhelmed?” Engage the team in problem solving, and together, you will work out a viable solution.
If your attitude is something like this, “I don’t have time to be friendly for the sake of some sensitive co-worker’s feelings”, then you are violating Customer Need number four. Just as your external customers appreciate a smile, a friendly greeting, or a kind word of encouragement, so do your internal customers. Friendliness breeds more of the same, and builds loyalty as well as the willingness to cooperate.
People rely on you to help them get their jobs done. When they come to you with questions, is your most common answer, “I don’t know”? Customers need you to be in the know. Your ability to intelligently answer internal customer inquiries establishes their trust in you as a knowledgeable, competent member of the team. This is especially true if you are in a management role. It is your responsibility to be on top of the information your internal customers need to know. If you honestly don’t know the answer to something, reply with, “I’ll find out for you.” Then, ensure that you follow through on that promise in order to maintain your credibility.
One of the most fundamental service delivery standards in customer service is that of making eye contact with a customer within the first 3 to 7 seconds. How often does it happen though, that in a workplace co-workers pass each other without so much as a hello? Customers who feel ignored tend to develop a sense of indifference or general dislike towards the offending service provider. Over 60% of all external customers who leave a service provider do so because of that sense of indifference! Without attentive service to your internal customers, you could experience high staff turnover, discontent amongst your team, and uncooperative staff members. Isn’t it amazing what a little acknowledgement can do?