How to Service Your Internal Customer Effectively?

This article meant to define what an internal customer is and how they should be treated. At any organization, most of the focus is placed solely on external customers. But, what about your internal customers? These are the people who you service within your organization or who play an integral part in your organization’s operations. Because they are so vital to the products and services you provide to external customers, your internal customers should be treated with the care, respect, and attention they deserve. So, after reading this article, you should pay special attention to how you communicate with and treat your internal customers.

How to Service Your Internal Customer Effectively?
How to Service Your Internal Customer Effectively?

Content Summary

Defining Internal Customers
The Importance of Internal Customer Service
Servicing Internal Customers
Key Message
Evaluation

Defining Internal Customers

When you hear the word “customer,” you probably think of the people who benefit from your products and services. And, that’s natural. They’re the reason your organization exists. In most cases, they’re the ones supplying you with the money to continue operating. So, you want to make sure to serve them properly, right?

What should that service look like? Good customer service is fulfilling customer needs and providing what’s promised. It’s doing the things that are important to your customers, with zero defects, on a consistent basis. In other words, it’s doing the right things right … all the time, every time.

BUT … These consumers of your products and services are not your ONLY customers. They’re just your “external customers.”

You see … There’s a whole OTHER set of customers called “internal customers.”

So, who are they?

For one … They’re all your coworkers that you serve. They’re your fellow employees who work downstream from what you do. In essence, they’re the ones getting the work output of you, your team, and your department.

For instance, your sales team needs leads to acquire new clients. And, who provides those leads? Your marketing team. That means the sales team is an internal customer of the marketing team.

The next category of internal customers is made of those people who are not employed by your organization. They’re not actual employees … but they’re still an integral part of what it takes for you to operate.

This group includes suppliers, vendor partners, industry regulators, government agencies, and even your community. They’re not buying anything from you. In fact, you may be temporarily hiring THEM. But, you still need to keep them happy if you’re going to be successful.

So, why do you need to worry about internal customers? Well, there’s an unavoidable truth: It’s just about impossible to have happy external customers when you have unhappy INTERNAL customers.

The Importance of Internal Customer Service

Why? Well, first, there’s the issue of attitude. All those unhappy employees are sure to negatively impact the external customer’s experience.

And, second, there’s the issue of processes. If your internal processes aren’t running smoothly and in sync, then you’re not going to deliver a very good product.

For both of these reasons, if you neglect your internal customers, what you’re delivering to the external customer is going to suffer … which will cause your business results to suffer, too.

You see … The best organizations don’t have a double standard when it comes to customer service. They treat both external and internal customers equally, with the same high level of service, respect, and concern for customer satisfaction.

Now … This doesn’t mean that you lose sight of the overall importance of your external customers. They’re always going to take priority over internal customers.

But, the point is, you can’t focus solely on external customers.

Servicing Internal Customers

So, what does it take to deliver excellent INTERNAL customer service?

It requires a major attitude change. You absolutely HAVE to get rid of the idea of “us versus them.”

Often, employees look at coworkers in other departments as if they’re the enemy or a competitor. Your team or department is “us.” And, the other departments are “them.” That’s totally ineffective.

The reality is … Everyone at your organization is on the same team!

Every employee is in this together. You can’t be taking care of your own little silo and ignoring the needs of other teams. If any department fails, the entire organization fails.

Think of it like a car. Your engine may be running, but if your brakes aren’t functioning, you’re in for a crash. Your system isn’t working properly.

If you want to know who the true “them” is, it’s your COMPETITORS. They’re the ones trying to take away your customers and put you out of business.

Everybody else, ALL your coworkers and even most of those semi-internal customers, they’re all part of what makes you successful and what keeps you in business. So, you need to give all of them great service … the same level of great service you give to your external customers.

Key Message

  • External customers are the consumers of your products and services.
  • Internal customers include:
    • The coworkers who get the output of you, your team, and your department.
      • For example, your marketing team provides leads to the sales team.
    • The people who aren’t necessarily employed by your organization but who are still integral to your operation.
      • This includes suppliers, vendor partners, industry regulators, government agencies, and even your community.
  • It’s just about impossible to have happy external customers when you have unhappy internal customers.
    • Unhappy employees will have a negative impact on the external customer’s experience.
    • If your internal processes aren’t running smoothly and in sync, then you’re not going to deliver a very good product.
  • The best organizations treat both external and internal customers equally, with the same high level of service, respect, and concern for customer satisfaction.
    • External customers will always take priority over internal customers.
  • To deliver excellent internal customer service, you have to change your attitude to recognize that everyone at your organization is on the same team.
    • If any department fails, the entire organization fails.
  • In the “us versus them” mindset, the only “them” you should be worried about are your competitors.

As you serve your external customers, don’t forget about your internal customers. Who are your internal customers? How will you modify your service practices based on this lesson?

Evaluation

Question 1

As discussed in this lesson, in the “us versus them” mindset, the only “them” you should be worried about are your:

A. External customers
B. Internal customers
C. Competitors
D. Bosses

Correct Answer:
C. Competitors

Question 2

You have to be employed by a company to be considered one of its internal customers.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
B. FALSE

Question 3

If your internal processes aren’t running smoothly and in sync, then you’re not going to deliver a very good product.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
A. TRUE

Question 4

Who qualifies as an internal customer according to this video lesson? (Check all that apply.)

A. Suppliers
B. Coworkers
C. Government agencies
D. Your community
E. Vendor partners
F. Customers
G. Industry regulators

Correct Answer:
A. Suppliers
B. Coworkers
C. Government agencies
D. Your community
E. Vendor partners
G. Industry regulators

Question 5

To deliver excellent internal customer service, you have to change your attitude to recognize that everyone at your organization is on the same team.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
A. TRUE

Question 6

The best organizations treat both external and internal customers with the same high level of service, respect, and concern for customer satisfaction.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
A. TRUE

Question 7

Unhappy employees can, unfortunately, have a negative impact on the external customer’s experience.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
A. TRUE

Question 8

Internal customers should always take priority over your external customers.

A. TRUE
B. FALSE

Correct Answer:
B. FALSE

Published by Jeannette Scott

, a wellness coach specializing in stress management and quality of life. She’s covered topics from nutrition to psychology, from sexuality to autoimmune diseases and cancer.