The brutal truth is, it is impossible to build happy external customers when you have unhappy internal customers, i.e., your employees.
Every contact that your unhappy employee has with the customer will negatively impact the external customer relationships. Hence, it is imperative to develop internal customer service within the organization.
Before diverting our attention to the tips to develop internal customer service, let’s look at the definition of internal customers.
Who are internal customers?
Any stakeholder of a business can be termed as its internal customer. The stakeholders include full-time employees, contractors, and, temporary employees. The internal customers serve the company and are interdependent on other internal customers or the stakeholders of the business.
To understand it more clearly, you can see internal customers as stakeholders working for your business or dependent on your business. The motto of the internal customers is to co-operate with each other to provide better services to the external customers, those who pay for your product or service.
On the other hand, “internal customer service” (ICS) describes how individuals and teams within an organization assist other individuals and groups in carrying out their responsibilities and achieving their objectives.
According to the theory, organizations should use their strategic approach to external customer service in their internal service-based interactions.
Difference between internal and external customers
|S.No.||Basis of Difference||Internal Customer||External Customer|
|1.||Stake||Internal customers have a stake in the business. They see the business as the place to work and grow professionally as well as personally.||External customers have no stake in the business but the product or services provided by the business. They see a company as the provider of pleasure and utility through their product or services.|
|2.||Responsibility||Internal customers, as a part of business, have the responsibility to provide better satisfaction to the external customers.||External customers pay for the product or service they receive. They do not have any responsibility towards the internal customers of a business.|
|3.||The concept||The concept of internal customers is relatively new. Companies have recently started focusing on internal customers to make them loyal and enthusiastic towards the company and provide better services to external customers.||The concept of external customers is as old as the concept of buying and selling. External customers have always been the axis of any business. |
|4.||Flexibility||Internal customers have relatively lesser flexibility when severing ties with the business they are part of. They cannot be part of two competitive businesses at the same time.||External customers are free to choose products or services from any company they like. They can simultaneously purchase products or services from two competitors. They are completely free to exercise their choice in choosing to buy or not buy from a company. |
The importance of internal customer service
Though not very often talked about, internal customer service is as important as external customer service. If you wonder what you can achieve by paying attention to internal customer service, here are the reasons for you –
- Better Productivity Level – When you better the internal customer services, you’ll automatically see an enhanced productivity level. When bottlenecks are removed, and grievances of internal customers are redressed quickly, the workflow goes smoothly.
- High Employee Retention Rate – When a company pays attention to the needs of their internal customers, the customers respond by being loyal to the company. This means they will not only work more enthusiastically but will not switch jobs frequently too.
- Improved External Customer Services – Most businesses are focused on the experience of their external customers. You should know that happy and satisfied internal customers always reflects similar result on external customers. When employees are happy, they give their 100% to make external customers happy.
Essential tips for developing internal customer service
Now that you are well aware of the need and importance of internal customer services. Let us proceed to tips on developing internal customer services.
1. Set clear expectations
External customers only expect you to provide them with the products or services you promised for the price they pay. But, internal customers come with many expectations. The business owner must set clear expectations for the employees to know what is on the plate for them. You cannot expect employees to work enthusiastically only for their paycheck. You need to offer a mixture of monetary and non-monetary rewards. Employees must know what rewards they can expect for their level of performance.
2. Create a culture of service
Every business or company has a culture, whether developed intentionally or unintentionally. The unintentional work culture always grows to be toxic. You should intentionally develop a culture of service in your business. The culture in your business should reward respectful behavior, politeness, and professionalism among employees of all levels.
3. Understand the objective of creating a team
Teams or departments are made to make the overall business more efficient and not compete against each other. Every team member and every team should understand that they all have a single goal – the company’s overall growth. Each department or team should work with cooperation for providing better services to external customers.
4. Have a fixed schedule
There should be a fixed schedule for internal customer service providers, and the schedule should be effectively communicated to each stakeholder, i.e., the internal customers. This will not only help the internal customer service provider do their task efficiently but will also help the employees get their grievances solved promptly without disturbing the process for others.
5. Use a conversational tone during departmental key exchanges
Professionalism is important, but this does not mean that all the internal talks in a company should be formal. The conversational tone during departmental key exchanges is important for building relationships among the internal stakeholders. Companies should not only say that we are a family, but they should also make the employees feel so. A conversational tone is one of the most effective ways to make employees feel at home.
6. Prepare internal service metrics and standards
Internal customer services need to be measured just like external customer services. You can use metrics and standards like average response time, average handling time, and employee satisfaction percentage to measure your internal customer service performance.
7. Create solutions for the long haul
Internal customer service should not only focus on solving an acute problem of an employee. The root cause of the issue needs to be searched and fixed. This will ensure that employees are not getting stuck in the same bottleneck over and over again. While seeing an acute problem, you must try to find a long-term solution for the same.
8. Have multiple channels for servicing
For efficient internal communication, you must create multiple channels like email, SMS, live chat, phone call, etc., for internal customer servicing. Multiple channels make things more accessible for the employees and ensure that issues are sorted out rapidly.
9. Give proper instructions to internal customers on how problems need to be resolved
Some problems can be easily solved by employees themselves without needing the help of internal customer service providers. Root causes and solutions to repetitive problems should be clearly provided to employees. You can make guides and resource pools for frequent and repetitive issues so that employees can get things sorted on their own and do not need to approach an internal customer service provider.
10. Value your internal customers
Last but not least, you should value your internal customers as you value your external customers. When an employee reaches you with certain issues, they should be given a fair chance to be heard. If they can solve the issue on their own, they should be informed in a friendly manner. Each internal customer must feel that they are an important part of the business and they are valued.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q 1: What are essential tips for developing internal customer service?
A 1: Here are some essential tips for developing internal customer service:
- Set clear expectations
- Create a culture of service
- Understand the objective of creating a team
- Have a fixed schedule
- Use a conversational tone during departmental key changes
- Prepare internal service metrics and standards
- Create solutions for the long haul
- Have multiple channels for servicing
- Give proper instructions to internal customers on how problems need to be resolved
- Value your internal customers
Q 2: How significant is internal customer service?
A 2: Employee support needs have increased as a result of the significant changes in the workplace over the past few years. Internal customer service is crucial because how you treat your employees impacts your relationships with customers and the bottom line.
Q 3: What is the best way to provide internal customer service?
A 3: Tell them upfront what you require of them to satisfy their needs. Set deadlines and quality standards. Inform them of what they can anticipate from you. Discreetly explain to the clients how they fit into your workload as an internal provider, and pay attention to their delivery requirements.
Q 4: What do you mean by the term internal customer satisfaction?
A 4: Internal customer or staff satisfaction within a department or team is measured by an internal customer satisfaction survey. This survey assesses opinions and perceptions of internal service, including responsiveness, productivity, and/or communication.
We hope that the internal customer service tips that we have mentioned above will help your organization work smoothly and boost the productivity of each department.
Understand that without your internal customers, you cannot serve your external customers. Both go hand-in-hand.29
Once you have understood this, it will make your task that easier to set up your internal customer service to take your organization to the horizon.
Rohan has over 11 years of experience in client services, marketing and hospitality field. Previously, he was head of digital marketing for a hi-tech mobile application. Rohan is driven by new challenges and the possibility of making an impact on individuals and businesses.
Published November 09, 2021, Updated October 14, 2022