It has been my good fortune to have been hired to speak to hundreds of clients with many, many different types of audiences.
Most of these clients understand that customer service is not a department you call when you have a complaint. It is a philosophy. Customer service throughout an entire organisation is the way of the future. Still, many people believe that customer service training is only for front line personnel.
And these people seem to only want to train the sales people, and of course, that “customer service department.” Service must be a total commitment not just for the front line, but for every employee of any business, from the mail room attendant to the janitor to the president to the CEO. Everyone has a customer. If it is not the outside customer, then it is the internal customer.
So who is an internal customer? A simple definition of an internal customer is anyone within an organisation who at any time is dependent on anyone else within the organisation. The internal customer may be a situational customer. This person may not always be the internal customer. They might be depending on someone inside the company at a specific time for a specific reason, maybe once a week or even once a year.
An example of an internal customer may be someone in the payroll department. Let’s say this payroll person is dependent on managers from various departments to call in the employee payroll on time. If a manager is late or doesn’t report payroll properly, then the payroll person can’t do his or her job, which is getting payroll checks out on time. The manager failed his or her internal customer.
This internal customer can be someone you work for as well as someone who works for you. At first you might think that because she works for me that I would always be her internal customer. After all, I’m the boss! WRONG! Of course I am dependent on her to help me with my responsibilities, but she is just as dependent on me to get her the right information and training so that she can do the best job possible. It goes both ways. The concept is sound and strong. Customer service has to be a total company effort. It just can’t be the front line who deals with the outside customers, the ones that buy our products and services. The front line needs the support of everyone within the organisation.
The traditional structure of a company has the CEO or President at the top with layers of management underneath, ending with the front line employee who deals directly with the outside customer. Imagine a triangle or pyramid. The CEO is at the top – at the point. At the bottom, at the base of the pyramid, are the front line employees. The chain of command flows down. The responsibility to each level of management and every employee flows down. This is very traditional.
In the 1980’s along came Jan Carlzon, the former president of Scandinavian Airlines with his best selling business book, Moments of Truth. In his book, he turned the pyramid upside down. He emphasised the importance in dealing with the outside customer. He said that rather than the lower level employees serving the higher levels, it should be at least a two way street, if not opposite. He flip/flopped the pyramid and put the customers at the top and the upper management, including the CEO and president, at the bottom. This is the root of internal service. It is the understanding that everybody supports everybody else in the organisation.
A company who has an excellent service reputation didn’t get it without everyone in the company being a part of the service strategy. Someone once said that if you are not working directly with the outside customer, you are probably working with someone who is. Everyone within your organisation has an affect on the outside customer. Starting an internal service program is simple. Virtually every technique you have read or learned about general customer service applies to the internal customer as well. Small changes in basic terminology will need to be made. Companies that practice outstanding customer service find it is easier to attract and keep customers. Companies that practice outstanding internal service find it easier to attract and keep good employees. Employees who practice outstanding internal service find it easier to keep and enhance their careers.
So, take care of your internal customers and create MOMENTS OF MAGIC!
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