Years ago, a colleague of mine took the time to write a recommendation on my behalf. I’ve never forgotten it because one statement she made really got my attention: “…responsive to internal customer needs.” In the hustle of getting business done, clocking out and collecting paychecks, responding [let alone acknowledging] internal customer needs all too often gets left by the wayside. We focus most of our time and energy on the end customer, forgetting all the touchpoints along the way. It’s time to hit the reset button and focus inward.
Internal customers are the folks who help organizations like yours serve end customers. They are part of the value chain and their role is critical to the success of your business. They are diverse but more often than not are…
- A salaried employee who executes on behalf of the business;
- A raw materials supplier who handles supply and logistics; or
- An outsourced vendor who utilizes raw goods to create finished products that go to market.
This “chain” within the organization exists because of internal customers. The loss of any one member can cause a ripple effect throughout the entire organization, so there is a critical need to make sure internal customers are performing well and are satisfied with their role.
Four Steps to Create Happy Internal Customers
Obviously, it’s important to take care of these internal customers. One way organizations can satisfy their employees is to proactively identify internal customer pain points of each individual and work to cure any dissatisfaction or pain. Easier said than done, right?
There are several tactics organizations can employ to take this proactive approach to maintaining happy internal customer relationships.
- Ensure a positive and open work environment and culture.
- Respect employees as you would suppliers and vice versa.
- Provide motivation to achieve goals/better results.
- Promote two-way communication and feedback on a regular basis.
Ya Gotta Check-in
By opening up the lines of communication in a way that feels safe and stress-free, internal customers are much more likely to share not only the good but also the not-so-good details that are often left out. In listening to the good, bad and ugly, you can begin to formulate very clear pictures of what’s working, what’s not and what the impact is not only on one person but also across your company’s supply chain. Given the right level of transparency, internal customers can be honest without consequence and provides invaluable data to the organization. That data can lead to process changes, shifts in policy or even restructuring to improve efficiencies.
In addition, regular check ins allow for feedback on how change in process or policy has impacted the pain point for the internal customer. By surveying internal customers on a regular basis, they come to expect it but you can also measure improvement or spot deterioration before the pain point has become too big to solve. It proves a commitment to internal customer satisfaction and can also act as a motivator to those who learn to expect it.
As former CEO of SAS Group Jan Carlzon once said, “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.”
Who are you serving? What do you excel at? What gets in your way?