While the traditional customer relationship management heavily focuses on serving the end-users - the consumer of a good or service, in modern customer service, the idea of internal customers appeared and is gaining currency. Most businesses know what an external customer is and even have already had a clear picture of their perfect customer profile in their mind. But they can easily overlook other important people or their internal customers.
When companies embrace the idea that employees have customer-like interactions and expectations and proceed to provide excellent internal customer service, they will see an increase in revenue and create a positive working environment and improve the company as a whole.
This article will give you a thorough understanding of internal customer service and how to make the best out of your internal customer service.
Let's dive in!
What is Internal Customer Service?
Once you understand what Internal Customer is, the definition of Internal Customer Service becomes straightforward. It is about providing service to colleagues and other departments within a company, as well as third-party partners having relationships with a company so that they can accomplish their tasks. This type of service focuses on how employees serve other employees rather than how companies treat their employees.
By catering to your internal customers, you develop a new underpinning of your organizational philosophy, making your employees the core of your company. Suppose companies succeed in delivering excellent internal customer service. In that case, their employees will receive great help with serving external customers and promoting their interests while increasing their job satisfaction.
Turning back to the HR department and its internal customers example, so what internal customer service does the HR department provide? The service happens when the said department satisfies its internal customers' needs by maintaining accurate employment records, supporting employees to reach their career goals, and improving their capabilities, aptitude, talents, and expertise.
How Important is Internal Customer Service?
Client-centric has been an approach to doing business where customers are put first and at the heart of one’s organization. This way of thinking around customers marks a shift from a transactional approach to a relational approach. And the internal customer shows another shift in organizations’ mindset, where employees serve fellow employees as customers. According to Micah Solomon of Forbes.com, the first principle of internal customer service is that “Without each other, there is no company. By serving our fellow employees, we empower them to serve their customers, and make magic happen.”
When developing effective and positive internal customer service, organizations can cut costs, increase productivity and efficiency, minimize friction, and improve interdepartmental communication and cooperation. Most importantly, healthy internal customer service practices lead to better external customer service and create a true customer-centric culture.
Increase employees satisfaction and engagement
When internal customers are valued and respected, their needs are met or even exceeded; they are satisfied and more motivated to contribute to the organization. They are more willing to exceed responsibilities to please customers and become ardent brand advocates.
Increase employee productivity and performance
When receiving all the tools, resources, and information, and instructions for processes and projects needed for their job, employees can fulfill more accurate and high quality work. They will spend more time focusing on their goals, instead of wasting time identifying, analysing, and solving unnecessary problems. As a result, external customer interactions will be smoother and better service will be provided.
Great internal customer service will provide an underpinning for your company’s enhanced productivity and ruthless efficiency.
Cut employee acquisition costs and increase employee retention
Outstanding internal customer service makes your employees happy and more likely to stay with the company in the long run. It is more time-consuming, energy-demanding and wasting money to recruit new employees than retaining current employees.
By focusing on internal customer service, your company can reduce huge hiring costs without sacrificing productivity.
Create a positive working environment and improve cohesiveness
Internal customer service helps create a more positive working environment by promoting employee safety, growth and goal attainment. It also encourages employees to take their colleagues just as seriously as they serve external customers. Therefore, it will boost morale amongst employees, make them work with integrity and productivity. Interdepartmental communication in the company will be improved as well.
6 Tips to Have The Best Internal Customer Service
Have a Clear Standard
Customer service standards can be used to improve the quality of internal customer service. Collecting metrics like average response time, average handling time, single question rate, etc., and analyzing them will help modify the standard to make it more measurable and specific.
Another measurable but more internal standard is employee satisfaction. Companies can get feedback from their employees by conducting surveys, and interviews asking how they feel about their internal teams, their working environment and what they expect from their internal teams in the future. This will reflect precisely the real experience, expectations, and needs of the companies’ internal customers.
Having a clear internal customer service standard helps companies identify and correct what is hindering their performance and give their employees a baseline for how they should work.
Set Up an Employee Idea Exchange System
Since employees, especially frontline workers, directly interact with customers, their opinions and ideas are most likely the most valuable and powerful to contribute to a company's success. A feedback and idea exchanging system would be ideal for collecting thoughts, open discussion on specific topics, and feedback from across the company. This will remind employees about the company's vision and direction and make them genuinely committed to the organization.
Highlight the Contribution of Employee
Employees’ contributions play an integral part in the company’s achievement and make significant impacts on customers. However, only a few employees realize this fact, which provokes the need to build a culture of internal customer service where companies recognize each division's work and achievements more regularly
Companies can choose to showcase employees by using customer case studies to understand how customers use a company's products or services and create better customer experiences. Organizing company-wide events where employees visit different departments is another way to help them know how other teams function. The aforementioned tip - set up an employee idea exchange system is also a great way to recognize staff contribution. Make sure that employees get credits for their ideas and encourage others to share their ideas and opinions.
When employees’ contributions are highlighted, they feel motivated to work harder and aspired to achieve further success. Companies can use these contributions as training moments to inspire other employees.
Be Clear About The Team Role
Your company may be a small business size company with only a few staff members or a giant corporation which has thousands of employees. But it’s always important that each staff and each department understands their role in the organization. Only in this way do they know how to achieve their business goals and lead their company to success.
Provide Good Support
Having an internal customer service team only is not enough; it is more important to make sure that the internal customer service reaches everyone in your organization. Some remote employees are losing sales just because they struggle with accessing your internal customer service teams to get their problems solved in time.
Companies can make sure their internal customer service teams operate smoothly by having accurate daily schedules for the service desk to avoid confusion and meaningless interactions among employees. Or they can provide self-service support options so that employees can solve their problems themselves without having to reach out to the internal service desk. This could be having skilled employees in internal service teams explain to their colleagues after resolving an issue how the problems occur and how they can troubleshoot the problems in case of recurrence. Companies can also create an accessible and searchable internal knowledge base where workers get the required help anytime and from anywhere they want. This empowers the workforce to fix recurring problems on their own without wasting time waiting for the internal customer service teams.
Have Multiple Communication Channels
Your in-house customer service team should always be within reach whenever employees are in need of assistance. Just like external customer support, the in-house service team must accept queries on different channels. From basic communication methods like by phone and by email to additional channels such as live chat and social media, companies should adopt them all to enhance their internal customer experience.
The two latter channels are effective in providing instant answers to employees’ requests, even anticipating the questions and creating canned responses to save time. They also help in-house service staff document service requests and their resolutions to refer to past cases if needed in the future, making sure that no requests or queries are overlooked.
Internal customer service is increasingly becoming the norm as more companies realize the contribution of employees towards the companies’ success. For businesses who are searching for useful tips to have the best internal customer service, try implementing one of the above approaches or combining them to best suit your needs.
The last thing I want to suggest is that internal customer service should start at the top with the company’s leaders. They should be the ones that initiate these principles. Once employees see their boss adopt these internal customer service practices, they will follow and adopt them themselves.