What is an internal customer & how do you manage their experience?
Over the last few years, companies have understood the necessity of providing an excellent customer experience (CX). Organizations across the globe have taken steps to delight their customers and turn fans into loyal fanatics. In fact, the customer experience management market is projected to be worth $16.91 billion USD by 2022. That’s good news for companies focusing on external CX.
But what about internal customers?
In this article, we’ll look at why internal CX is important and how you can foster it in your organization.
Who are internal customers?
Internal customers are stakeholders who work within your company requiring assistance from another individual or department to get their job done. This is in contrast to external customers who pay for your services and are not directly connected to the organization (other than transactional).
For example, an internal customer could be someone that needs something from you once a year, like ordering office supplies, or someone who depends on you weekly, such as payroll. The bottom line is that one party is dependent on the other to get their job done.
To have an effective internal CX program, meeting the unique needs of internal customers must be a total company initiative. Everyone must be set on meeting deadlines and providing excellent service to those around them, or it will fail like a chain reaction. This doesn’t just include employees on the front lines, but back office personnel too. For instance, when Jeff doesn’t get payroll timesheets in on time, Jane can’t process it, and the workforce doesn’t get paid.
Why internal CX is important
Employees who are focused on serving one another create a company culture that’s enjoyable and productive. By encouraging employees to collaborate with and support their fellow peers, we empower them to serve our customers and others in the organization, creating a better overall employee experience and external customer experience alike.
Internal CX is a mindset shift, similar to when businesses shifted from a product to an external customer mindset. It’s a relational approach where all internal customers feel valued and where everyone is looking out to make everyone else’s job easier. It’s a win for all!
Examples of internal customers
Unless you work solely for yourself, you likely have internal customers on your team and around your company. This can show up in many forms and different types of relationships.
Two peers within a team
On a marketing team, the person who distributes the emails depends on the writers and designers to get the emails written and designed. If the writer is late getting the copy to the coder, the email may go out late or with errors because the coder was rushed. Many peer-to-peer relationships are classic examples of internal customer relationships.
Internal IT department and company employees
Employees rely on internal IT help desk departments to ensure their computers and technology are running smoothly. Without working technology, employees couldn’t do their jobs and help customers, and the entire company would suffer. IT help desks should ask for relational and transactional feedback from their internal customers to understand where they can improve.
Human Resource department to employees and other departments
Every employee is an internal customer to HR departments because they provide employee relations, training, benefits, and mediation. They also serve other departments as they recruit and hire for various positions. The relationship goes two ways because other departments also serve them by complying with HR rules and aiding in the hiring process.
How you manage internal CX
Deploying an effective internal CX program is all about mindsets and attitudes. Having a proper internal CX mindset may require employees to complete tasks outside of their normal role and job description to get the job done. It’s a team mindset where you’re always looking out for the needs of your fellow employees.
Below are practical ways you can foster a culture that focuses on internal customers.
Start with feedback
Before you set up internal CX initiatives, assess your company culture and understand where your employees are at and what they’re already doing. Many companies must start at the beginning and train their employees on best practices and changing their mindset. Common survey questions may include: (on a scale of 1-10)
- How easy is it for you to get help from colleagues?
- How likely are your team members to get their tasks done on time?
- I feel valued by others in the company.
Create Service Standards
Creating internal customer service standards will give all employees a baseline for how they should be operating. For instance, your IT help desk team may have a standard that each request gets acknowledged within 4 hours. These service standards help everyone in your company or team feel valued, sets an example for others to follow, and it sets a precedent for the time it takes to complete a task.
Use closed-loop follow-up
Most external CX departments use closed-loop feedback to turn a negative interaction into a positive experience. This principle can also be applied to external CX as well. Developing a company culture that seeks and appreciates feedback creates a healthy work environment. If an employee knows he was late getting a task completed, or didn’t comply with a rule, he can ask for feedback or give an explanation to ensure the internal customer is happy and mitigate the damages.
Employees are motivated when they’re celebrated and will repeat those behaviors. When a team, individual, or department displays great internal CX, use it as a training moment to teach other employees about internal CX best practices.
It’s important to note that creating outstanding internal CX starts at the top with managers, directors, and C-level executives. As employees see their bosses living out these principles, they will be more likely to latch onto the culture and adopt them themselves. Understanding the power of an internal CX culture helps create an enjoyable and productive work environment.
Get started with our internal CX survey template