Internal and External Customers
Not only are customers the people who pay you for your product or service, they are also the people you work with, the people you work for, and the people who work for you.
Colleagues, superiors, and subordinates depend on you just as you depend on them so it is important to provide good customer service to them as you go through your work day. Some effective methods of providing good customer service to your internal customers are:
Thank them. Showing colleagues appreciation for their work lets them know how important they are to the company and to you.
Treat them with respect. Co-workers who are treated with respect will in turn treat customers with respect.
Create a work culture that encourages internal customer service. A work environment that rewards respectful, polite behavior and discourages rudeness and other unprofessional behavior will foster good customer service skills and behaviors.
Provide clear guidelines regarding roles and responsibilities. When employees know what is expected of them, they not only will perform better, but will also be more satisfied with their own work environment. That satisfaction will translate into good customer service practices, both internally and externally.
Communication is key to providing excellent internal customer service. In a business environment in which individuals work together, agree on methods of doing business, and cooperate rather than compete with each other to achieve common goals, internal customer service plays a huge role. Some of the benefits of creating an environment where internal customer service is practiced daily include:
- Increased productivity.
- Decreased costs.
- Improved communication.
- Higher employee morale.
- Goals aligned among departments.
- Better external customer service.
An external customer is an individual or organization that either uses or purchases your product or service. They have a choice when making the decision to purchase from your organization and they take their business elsewhere if they choose.
When thinking about your external customers, keep the following points in mind:
- External customers purchase our products and/or services from outside the company, not inside.
- External customers, even though they may be loyal, still have options to go elsewhere at any time.
- Marketing and advertising efforts are directed to external customers, not internal customers.
It is harder and more expensive to bring a customer back who was not happy with the treatment received than it is to maintain a positive relationship with current customers. As such, it is good business practice to make sure not only that your customers get the product or service they want, but that their experience is excellent. Happy customers will stick around and talk to others, and word of mouth advertising is not only the best advertising, it is the least expensive.
Negative news travels twice as fast as positive news. In order to ensure that word of mouth advertising is positive, follow these simple guidelines:
Start with excellent internal customer service. Remember, happy employees will be more likely to treat customers with respect. Even employees who do not have direct contact with customers can impact the image of the company through their interactions outside the company, their treatment of other employees, and their loyalty to the company.
Establish a positive company image. This can be done through marketing and advertising, community relationships, and positive interactions with customers.
Treat customers as if they are people, not dollar signs. Relationships with customers do not stop when they walk out the door after making a purchase. You need to continue to build those relationships through follow-up contact and feedback so the customer knows where to come if the need for your product or service comes up again and so your customers know where to send their friends.
Be responsive to concerns. When your customers come to you with problems or concerns, be ready and willing to quickly work toward resolution. Do not brush them off or ignore their complaints.
Always be professional in your dealings with customers. Professional behavior in all interactions with your customer is always the right choice.