Four years ago, I published the article below. Over the years, it has received thousands of views worldwide. Here's the article once more with a few updates!
It is no secret: I am passionate about customer service. I get a real kick out of providing the best possible service to my clients and as a customer favour businesses that provide great service too.
Businesses that provide great service benefit as their customers will keep coming back for more. What restaurants or cafes do you like to go to and why do you go there? It’s usually the friendly service and great food that do the trick. Oh, and they probably know your name too! You have an 'emotional connection' with them.
One thing that businesses with great service have in common is that they also have great internal customer service.
What is internal customer service?
Internal customer service is the service we provide fellow employees and other departments within our own businesses, as well as our suppliers or members and anyone else with whom we work to get our jobs done.
It is what we do when a colleague asks for information he or she needs to complete her main task for the day; it is what we say when the marketing person asks for the addresses of good contacts; it is how we greet the front line manager when he walks into our office with an "I need something from you" expression on his face.
Why is internal customer service so important?
In helping others at work, you help your company succeed. Superior internal customer service improves morale, productivity, employee retention, external customer service and, ultimately, profitability.
I see businesses with happy staff that do this very well, and sadly, I also see businesses where it's the opposite.
Below are some tips to improve your internal customer service:
1. Set customer service standards.
With your team, create customer service standards (both internal and external). Thinking through the process and setting standards for response times for things like emails, phone calls or internal requests help to set expectations for employees. Employees should be held accountable for responding to a co-worker’s request within a predetermined period of time.
2. Lead by example
Lead by example: treat others like you want to be treated. Be friendly, compliment staff where possible (catch them doing something good!!), encourage them and show your appreciation. Don’t EVER criticize them in public. It is humiliating for them and reflects badly on you.
3. Regard your co-workers as customers
Treat your co-workers with respect: regard them as your customers. Understand that helping your colleagues do their jobs more successfully helps your organization and you. Therefore they are your customers. Treat them like VIPs!
4. Exceed your internal customers' expectations.
When someone exceeds your expectations, how do you feel? Most people feel delighted, excited, upbeat and very, very positive about that person and his or her organisation. Think what you can accomplish in your organisation by exceeding the expectations of fellow employees.
5. Say thank you.
A simple, genuine "thank you" goes much farther to create an atmosphere of sharing and helping than two such small words would suggest. Even when it is a person's job to provide information
or a product to you, tell them "thank you" when they have done it. Express your appreciation of their timeliness in providing it. Explain how it has made your job much easier. Show them your delight when they exceed your expectations.
6. Train your staff
Train your staff the importance of customer service, both internal and external. It can be a useful to hire someone to help you. (Note: at SMARTtraining, we offer these services and have helped many businesses improve their external and internal customer service).
7. Manage performance
Standards and training are important, but unless employees are held accountable for expected behaviour, these are pointless. This is why it’s important to have a performance review process that incorporates employee expectations with goals that are tied to pay and reward systems.
So, if you have great internal customer service systems in place, your staff will be happier and will be able to provide better service both internally and externally. This will ultimately lead to better profitability!
If you need help improving customer service, let us know!
Till next week, Marijke
PS: if you have any comments to this tip, please click the add comment box below!
Marijke Dunselman. Click here to read more about us!