Customer Service performance: the link between organizations and customers
Many believe that Customer Service is strictly linked to the direct contact that employees have with the customers of an organization. But this service extends beyond the front line of dealing with external customers. Customer Service also refers to how employees treat and support each other in delivering exceptional products and services to the customers who pay for them. This is called Internal Customer Service.
The daily activity of a Customer Service specialist consists of interacting with different departments within the organization in order to accomplish specific tasks. For example a new program is needed to be installed on a computer and the input of the IT department is requested. This makes those assisted by IT representatives as their internal customers.
At the same time, the Marketing department is asking for a list with addresses belonging to loyal customers because they intend to start a new campaign. In this case, the colleagues from Marketing will be the internal customers.
Simply put, internal customer service is the support offered to suppliers or fellow employees from other departments in order to perform their tasks and thus attain the desired organizational, departmental and individual objectives.
Normally, every principle pertaining to external customer service should apply to internal customer service, as well. All employees within a company should be committed to the principle that, in order to achieve organizational goals and high performance, everybody supports everybody else.
The traditional perspective on Customer Service is represented by a pyramid, where the bottom is represented by the front line employees and the top by the CEO. The responsibilities and the command is cascaded top-down.
However, according to Jan Carlzon, in his book, “The Moments of truth”, from the internal Customer Service point of view, this pyramid should be turned upside down, putting the customers with the employees who are serving them at the top, while top management sits at the bottom, thus creating a two way street in managing requests. In this way, emphasis falls on the importance of deal with external customers and how everybody should be involved in delivering exceptional customer experiences.
Many organizations spend a lot of money every year in promoting their brand and perception of their businesses, but the best advocates are the customers and the employees themselves. Internal Customer Service has a huge impact on External Customer Service. A high performing internal customer service will increase employee satisfaction and it will improve performance and productivity. Moreover, customers will be treated the same way in which employees are treated within the organization.
Keeping employees fully involved is often a major challenge, but with a positive attitude at all levels of the organization, standardized procedures, and clear communication, the external perception of a business can be strengthened. Performance Management tools, such as KPIs, Scorecards or Dashboards, can be applied and their results can be measured even for the internal customer service.
Successful strategies that will increase productivity not only within the Customer Service department, but within the entire organization, as Entrepreneur Magazine details in their “Internal Customer Service: Getting Your Organization to Work Together” article, are:
- Do not consider colleagues’ requests as interruptions from the more important tasks, as all employees work towards achieving the same goals;
- To show efficiency and professionalism in supporting employees from all levels of the organization, not only the top management;
- To exceed the internal customers’ expectations by treating them the same as outside customers are treated;
- To make employees feel valued after they have offered their support.
Companies that are interested in practicing outstanding customer service both externally, and internally, have better chances to attract and keep customers, engage good employees and spend less money in advertising their services.
Future Internal Customer Service articles will analyze topics ranging from setting specific KPIs, proposing initiatives and measuring customer satisfaction levels.
- Hyken, S. (2010) Internal customer service
- Internal customer service: getting your organization to work together (2002), Entrepreneur Magazine
- Holmes, M., Internal customer service – what is it and why is it important?, Customer Experience Magazine