Internal Customer Service
We understand that good customer service is important to the success of any business. If we don't provide good customer service to those who are purchasing our goods or services, they won't come back, and our business won't be successful.
When providing service to external customers, we know that we need to be friendly, efficient, knowledgeable, and always give it our best efforts. What would make our interactions with our coworkers, employees, and other managers any different?
Internal customer service is viewing your coworkers, employees, and managers as customers and treating them accordingly. This is a relatively simple idea. However, it's just as important to the success of a business as providing good external customer service.
Let's look at some examples of both bad and good internal customer service. Then we'll talk about some key elements to internal customer service.
Bad Internal Customer Service
Alex works in men's clothing at a large department store. It's the holiday season and the store is busy. However, Alex's department has only one customer who has already declined assistance, so Alex is tidying up the department.
Jeff works in men's shoes, and there are many people standing and waiting for Jeff to pull shoes to be tried on. Jeff asks Alex for his assistance, but Alex refuses to help Jeff, stating that he's too busy and Jeff will just have to figure it out.
Alex would never refuse to help an external customer who asked for it. Why would he refuse to help an internal customer? Most likely because Alex does not view Jeff as an internal customer; he just views him as someone else who works there. Therefore, he provides bad internal customer service.
Good Internal Customer Service
Cathy works at a coffee shop with two front counter registers and a drive thru. She's been assigned to one of the front counter registers. On a very rainy day, Sara is assigned to the drive thru. Customers are avoiding the rain by using the drive thru rather than going into the store, and Sara was having to take orders, operate her register, and hand orders through the window as they were ready.
Cathy steps over and offers to help Sara by taking the orders. She's able to take the orders and set them up for the baristas. Sara just has to operate the register and hand orders through the window. The drive thru line quickly diminishes and the tip jar is full.
Cathy provided good internal customer service by stepping in to help Sara. In turn, Sara was able to provide excellent external customer service to the drive thru customers. Everyone had a better day and received a generous tip share.
Elements of Internal Customer Service
There are specific elements to providing good internal customer service. Let's focus on four of them, including:
Recognition in this case simply means recognizing that your coworkers, employees, and managers are internal customers who deserve the same level of support and effort as your external customers. Recognition also includes a willingness to go above and beyond to serve coworkers, employees, and managers just as you would someone who was purchasing goods or services from a business.
Initiative is making an effort to offer assistance to your coworkers, employees, and managers before being asked for help. If you see a person or a department struggling, don't wait to be asked to help. Instead, offer help. You wouldn't wait for a customer to ask for your help, you would immediately offer it. The same should be true with internal customers.
Cross-training is learning how to do other people's jobs. There are some jobs that require specific professional or technical training, and you may not be able to help with those. However, there are likely a number of tasks you can learn within the business that will allow you to take initiative and offer help to others. This also prevents a dangerous business practice known as siloing.
Siloing is when people or departments become isolated in their jobs and cannot offer assistance to others within the business. This is dangerous because if one person or department becomes overwhelmed, it can affect how others perform their jobs.
Quality in this case means striving for excellence in all you do, especially when helping someone else within the business. When helping someone do their job, there may be a temptation to not do it as well as if it were your job. However, you should always strive to do your very best. Whether it's your job or you are providing internal customer service to someone else by helping them, the quality of internal customer service should at least match the level of external customer service you provide.
Internal customer service is understanding that your coworkers, employees, and managers are customers. Incorporating the important elements of internal customer service, such as recognition, initiative, cross-training and quality will ensure that you provide excellent service to your internal customers. Doing so exemplifies professionalism and will make you stand out, in a positive way, within any business.
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