As a professional speaker, I have had the opportunity to address hundreds of clients in many different types of audiences about customer service. Most clients understand that customer service has evolved and is an important philosophy for a business. It is not simply the "complaint department," but an important mindset for employees and management.
There are still those who believe that customer service training only applies to front line personnel. They would relegate training to sales people and the ubiquitous "customer service department."
But an attitude of service must permeate every corner of the business - the front line, yes, but also from the janitor to the middle manager, all the way up to the CEO - everyone must have a commitment to customer service. And everyone has a customer.
Those in the company who do not deal directly with outside customers still have internal customers. Simply put, an internal customer is someone in the organization who is in some way dependent on another member of the organization.
Some internal customer relationships are regular, while others can shift according to the situation. It might be based on a specific time, such as once a week or once a year, or for a specific reason.
An internal customer could be, for example, a payroll clerk who is dependent on department managers to deliver employees' time cards so payroll checks can be printed. If a manager fails to report the employees' time, he or she has failed the internal customer in the payroll department - as well as the employees who may not receive their paychecks on time.
The internal customer relationship can go both ways - someone you work for, or someone who works for you. If you're the boss, you may be thinking, that's wrong... he works for me, so I should always be the internal customer! But consider it. Yes, the manager is dependent on employees to carry out assigned duties, but the employee is also relying on management for training and the necessary information to be able to carry out the job.
Start at the Top
It is an accepted concept today that customer service takes the efforts of the whole company. No longer is it relegated to only those employees who deal with outside customers who are purchasing the company's products or services. Customer service means everyone.
Starting at the top traditionally means a CEO or company president, followed by different levels of management and usually ending at the front line employee who interacts directly with the outside customers.
This traditional structure could be likened to a triangle with the CEO as the top point and the chain of command flowing downward to the base, which represents the front line employees. Responsibilities flow downward through the levels of management.
But in the 1980s, Jan Carlzon, the former president of Scandinavian Airlines, turned traditional thinking upside down in his best-selling book, Moments of Truth. The book flipped the triangle over and put the emphasis on customer service for the outside customer, highlighting the importance of the lower-level positions. He said those in higher-level positions had to consider how they could serve the front line employees.
This is the basis of internal service. Ideally, everybody in the organization supports everybody else.
Everyone in an organization has an effect on the outside customer, whether directly or indirectly. A company does not gain an excellent customer service reputation by accident - it takes everyone working together and supporting one another as part of a comprehensive strategy.
If you already have customer service training in place for front line employees, it won't take much to translate it into training for internal customer service. The principles and techniques are the same. Adjust the training terminology a bit and put some focus on your organization's internal environment. Everyone will benefit. Just as outstanding customer service is effective in attracting and keeping customers, outstanding internal service will enable you to attract and keep good employees who will in turn help carry the attitude forward.
You can create Moments of Magic by taking care of your internal customers!