Developing Outstanding Internal Customer Service
Customer service is big to me. When a company provides a truly stellar customer experience, I will most likely repeat business with them even if there was an issue that needed improvement. For example, I ordered my wife flowers for her birthday. The company delivered flowers that died two days later. Though I was frustrated, their customer service team was so outstanding that I will order from them again.
Providing good customer service is not only important to external customers, but internally to co-workers as well. I believe that a huge factor in being able to deliver outstanding external customer service (which leads to high levels of customer loyalty and retention) is without question, great internal customer service.
A quote I recently read resonated with how I like to train my team as it relates customer service.
"There's a remarkably close and consistent link between how internal customers are treated and how external customers perceive the quality of your organization's services. A commitment to serve internal customers invariably shows itself to external customers. It's almost impossible to provide good external service if your organization is not providing good internal service." – Benjamin Schneider, University of Maryland
So, who is an internal customer? A basic definition is anyone within your organization who is dependent on you to meet a goal or deadline. The foundation for outstanding internal customer service is excellent interdepartmental communication and cooperation.
Everyone within your organization affects the outside customer, and virtually everything you've read or learned about customer service in general applies to the internal customer.
Here are a few guidelines I live by:
1. Set clear expectations.
As an internal provider of service, you are responsible for setting clear guidelines about what internal customers can reasonably expect. Last minute requests are typically due to poor planning on the part of the internal customer. However, if someone reaches out to you with a request while you’re working on something time sensitive, talk with them and identify how important his or her task is relative to yours. If they have unrealistic expectations, explain your workflow, priorities, processes, and timelines. Then, reinforce your goal is to provide top-notch service for them.
2. Always keep customers informed on project progress.
Nobody likes to be blindsided by delays or last minute requests for additional information. I like to err on the side of over-communication. If you’ve finished a portion of the request, let them know the status, and when you plan to complete the rest of the project.
3. Get to know your teammates.
Go to lunch with co-workers in other departments or schedule quick calls just to check in and see what’s happening in their department. At Mediacurrent most of our team works remotely, so it takes a little more effort to get to know everyone, but it’s worth it.
4. Get the “big picture.”
Develop an understanding of how the whole organization works. How does what you contribute fit into the big picture? What do other departments need from you to meet their goals? Think outside of your function and department.
5. Publicize your schedule.
Keep your calendar updated with your schedule for the current week.
6. Always Close The Loop.
When you receive an email that requires additional work or research, let the person know that you received it and you’ll work on it. Do not let it sit in your inbox for days until you get around to working on it.
7. Make your co-workers feel valued.
Recognize them with a smile and call them by name. When someone approaches your desk stop what you’re doing, make eye contact, and be attentive to what they have to say.
8. Develop a positive attitude.
Your attitude is reflected in everything you do. It not only determines how you approach your job and your co-workers, but it also determines how they respond to you. Avoid complaining. Do whatever it takes to get the job done—and done right.
9. Solve problems.
Great customer service professionals are quick on their feet. Don’t procrastinate, develop a plan of attack, and handle the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible.
10. Identify and anticipate needs.
The more you know your customers (see tip #3), the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.
What other tips would you say are crucial to providing excellent internal customer service?