The Value of Internal Customer Service

Full internal support

Several years ago, I was trying to move. I had just bought a new house that was less than 3 miles away from the house I was renting.

But there is another customer that also needs to be focused on in order to have an efficiently functioning business. 

Overall the community was the same, I was just on the other side of the neighborhood grocery store. Part of the headache of moving included needing to move my phone/internet service. Being tech savvy, I figured I could do that easily online through the website, but every time I tried to put in the work order, I got an error code.  I tried to call the company during my lunch time or after work. At first, I would push the button to be kept in the queue for a callback, but no call would ever come. Then I tried to wait on the phone for the next customer service, only to be disconnected when they turned off their phones. For a month I tried to reach out to the phone company before I finally got a live voice in new service sales. The problem…. I wasn’t new service. I was a moving customer, and was informed by a very curt sounding voice on the phone that I needed to use the move services feature online, the rep informed me I was being transferred to the correct department, but unfortunately, I was disconnected again. 

I was beyond frustrated and angry when my phone rang moments later.  It was the company automated survey. I have never been that excited about participating in the after-call questions and usually just disconnect, but this time I chose to respond, and what a response it was.  Needless to say, I received a phone call the morning I was scheduled to move from a customer service manager who was very apologetic about my experience. We got a chance to talk for a bit and I learned that each department that I had tried to contact were all in different locations. Some not even in the same state or country.  Yes, in this case they had a major customer service failure, but the biggest failure of all was the inability for each department to connect to each other, or even have cross training/communication where reps could speak with each other to address issues.  

Most companies focus on the level of service they provide to the customers. With the definition of customers being the clients who come in through the door, call in, or visit websites. But there is another customer that also needs to be focused on in order to have an efficiently functioning business. 

Donna Earl*, a corporate trainer, defines the internal customer as anyone in the organization. She expands the definition from only including co-workers and departments to distributers and vendors as well.  Basically, an internal customer is anyone who contributes to a company’s ability to do business. 

These customers are responsible for work flow, product management, client interaction, development, inventory, training, and sales. These areas are where you will find your internal customers. 

While external customers bring in money, internal customers can help ensure efficiency and by working together. This cohesiveness can also help with cost reduction by identifying and removing barriers to doing business. 

American Founding Father John Dickinson wrote in The Liberty Song “By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.” This was again repeated by Abraham Lincoln. The same thing holds true for businesses. Instead of functioning in departmental silos, communication lines need to be open to allow employees to be able to provide better service to external customers, faster.

By rephrasing the term staff or employee to customers, then it is easier to understand how the interaction handled between different aspects of the business can help or hinder the flow of work and communication. 

How does this translate into positive customer service?  One of the major complaints that people have about companies is how much they get bounced around. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Customers have to repeat their issues over and over again, and each department works from things from different directions, sometimes countering work that someone else is doing.  By bridging communications between departments, the silo effect is removed and external customers are no longer required to repeat processes or answers to get the assistance they need. 






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