Internal Customer Service: What You Must Know

internal customer service

Internal customer service involves everything an organization can do to help their employees fulfill their duties, reach their goals and enjoy their work. It covers how different departments communicate with each other and how individuals interact with their colleagues, subordinates and superiors.

It is a vital aspect of modern business as it creates the environment within which a company is most likely to succeed.

Here is a complete guide to everything you need to know about internal customer service.

Why is Internal Customer Service Important?

The importance of internal customer service cannot be overstated, especially for a department such as human resources where internal interactions are part and parcel of their daily duties.

There are multiple benefits to cultivating good internal customer service as one of your business goals, so it is easy to why it is such a valued aspect of modern business.

The benefits include:

  • Boosting staff productivity.
  • Increasing employee satisfaction with their work experience.
  • Creating clear communication channels.
  • Encouraging staff loyalty.
  • Solving problems quicker.
  • Improving external customer service.

18 Internal Customer Service Tips

There are a lot of tips and customer service best practices that can be implemented within a company to develop excellent internal customer service. Creating a program that consists of all or most of these elements can have a huge impact on productivity and staff morale.

Here are 18 of the most reliable ways to make sure your internal customer service is up there with the best.

1. Label Employees as Internal Customers

Valuing employees as internal customers redefines the organizational culture, instilling a stronger sense of unity and purpose. By doing so, companies facilitate improved communication and training procedures.

This perspective shift is paramount for Human Resources, the backbone that supports all departments. Their pivotal role spans recruiting, disseminating information, disciplinary actions, and more.

Furthermore, they serve as conduits for mediation, ensuring harmonious employee relations, orchestrating training sessions, and designing benefit packages.

By viewing employees as internal customers, HR can provide a tailored, holistic approach to address departmental needs.

2. Be Sure to Show Respect

Mutual respect is the cornerstone of any thriving organization. Fostering a culture of respect creates ripples, influencing the quality of internal communication and collaborative efforts.

Instituting a program that emphasizes respecting each employee’s unique needs and valuing departmental perspectives can usher in unparalleled unity.

In such an environment, a business flourishes not just in productivity, but in the camaraderie and trust that permeates its workforce.

internal customer service

3. Decide on a Communication Schedule that Fits Both Parties

Feelings of neglect or being overlooked can be detrimental to staff morale. Pushing aside concerns of individuals or departments based on perceived priority can lead to a fractured work environment.

Delivering top-notch internal customer service necessitates a well-structured communication calendar. This ensures everyone, irrespective of hierarchy, has an avenue to voice their opinions and concerns, fortifying the ethos of inclusivity.

4. Have Multiple Communication Channels to Contact Your Internal Customer Service Departments

In the intricate tapestry of internal customer service, communication threads bind everything together. Having diverse avenues for dialogue is crucial.

This could encompass traditional face-to-face discussions, the efficiency of emails, direct phone lines, and even providing options in leadership personnel for grievance addressal.

Offering varied platforms ensures every employee finds a mode they’re comfortable with, promoting open discourse.

5. Know the Organization Structure and Visualize it with a Chart

Clarity in organizational hierarchy eliminates ambiguity. Every employee, be it a mailroom attendant or a marketing executive, should effortlessly pinpoint the right channel for their concerns.

For instance, while a mailroom worker seeks resolution about mail categorization, a marketer might need to liaise with sales regarding a campaign.

While the CEO stands at the helm, not every concern requires their intervention. Middle management and team leads are adept at managing issues, ensuring streamlined communication and quicker resolutions.

internal customer service

6. Make Sure Everyone Fully Understands Their Roles and Responsibilities

At the heart of effective internal customer service lies proactive problem anticipation. A major facet of this approach is elucidating clear role definitions for every employee.

A distinct understanding of duties ensures seamless operations, negating potential overlaps or misunderstandings about task allocations.

With everyone in sync about their designated responsibilities, the machine of the organization runs without friction.

7. Maintain Two Way Transparency

Transparency is a two-lane highway. While it’s imperative for junior staff to be candid, the same principle applies upward. Senior management, from team leaders to directors, should lead by example, demystifying their roles.

When employees grasp the scope and responsibilities of their superiors, they’re more likely to value and respect those positions.

An open-door policy, where leaders regularly share updates, decisions, and company directions, fosters an environment of trust and mutual respect.

8. Create a Rewarding Company Culture of Service

Human beings thrive on recognition and appreciation. In a professional setting, these emotions are accentuated. Building a culture that prioritizes customer loyalty must be complemented by a robust rewards system.

Recognizing and applauding individual and collective achievements doesn’t just make the recipient feel good, it fuels motivation across the board.

Such an environment ensures that each employee, buoyed by their peers’ success, is driven to contribute wholeheartedly, working synergistically towards collective organizational goals.

internal customer service

9. Always Have a Positive Attitude

Having a positive attitude in the workplace is about more than just wearing a smile; it’s about fostering an environment where challenges are met head-on with enthusiasm. A proactive, solution-oriented mindset is integral.

Such an approach ensures that employees, instead of being bogged down by challenges, look for innovative solutions. Moreover, it’s the organization’s responsibility to support this by ensuring that teams have the necessary resources and tools.

Management should be receptive to suggestions, demonstrating that when obstacles arise, the collective mindset is geared towards finding an effective resolution.

The ripple effect of this positivity is palpable, boosting morale and ensuring a cohesive, forward-thinking workforce.

10. Get Feedback from Internal Customers – and Act on it

Constructive feedback is the backbone of continuous improvement. While establishing open communication channels is essential, it’s even more crucial to genuinely listen to and value the feedback received from the internal customers—your employees.

Their day-to-day experiences and insights offer a unique perspective, pivotal for organizational growth. But listening is just the first step. Taking prompt, actionable steps based on this feedback not only streamlines operations but also reinforces the trust employees have in management.

This two-pronged approach of seeking feedback and implementing changes based on it showcases a company’s commitment to its employees, fostering a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.

11. Have a Clear Set of Expectations and Service Standards

In the intricate maze of corporate operations, clarity is paramount. Every team member, regardless of their position, should have a lucid understanding of what is expected of them, especially in client interactions or service delivery.

Clearly defined service standards act as a roadmap, guiding employees and ensuring consistency in performance. These guidelines, when communicated effectively, empower employees, reducing ambiguities and potential conflicts.

Regular training sessions, workshops, or even detailed manuals can be tools to disseminate this information, ensuring that every member is aligned with the organization’s vision and service ethos.

internal customer service

12. Reiterate Expectations Often

Establishing standards and expectations is an ongoing process. While some foundational principles remain unwavering, others, especially in dynamic industries, may require periodic reviews and reminders.

Frequent reiterations, be it through team meetings, training sessions, or digital communications, ensure that these guidelines are consistently at the forefront of employees’ minds.

For instance, a customer service team might need monthly refreshers on communication etiquette, while a tech team might require updates on evolving software standards.

This continuous emphasis on standards not only ensures consistency but also reinforces the organization’s commitment to excellence in every sphere.

13. Let Team Members know You’ve Received Emails

Effective communication is a hallmark of a successful team, and in the digital age, email often plays a central role. When an email goes unanswered or unacknowledged, it can foster feelings of uncertainty or neglect.

Therefore, it’s crucial to respond promptly, even if it’s just to acknowledge receipt. An automatic acknowledgment or a brief note letting the sender know their query is being addressed can make all the difference.

This not only enhances the sense of respect but also builds trust, assuring the sender that their concerns or inputs are valued and will be acted upon.

14. Solve Problems Quickly and Efficiently

Efficiency is the lifeblood of any thriving organization. Addressing concerns or complaints promptly isn’t just about resolution—it’s about demonstrating a company’s commitment to its employees. Delays or neglect can fester, leading to decreased morale and productivity.

By actively seeking solutions, companies show that they value employee well-being and input.

Furthermore, proactive approaches, such as setting up dedicated teams or helplines for quick problem-solving, can further optimize this process, ensuring grievances are addressed with the urgency and attention they deserve.

internal customer service

15. Always Inform Customers of the Project Progress

Transparency in sharing progress fosters a sense of collective achievement. Keeping everyone in the loop—be it about milestones achieved or challenges faced—ensures that all employees feel involved and valued.

Regular updates, either through newsletters, team meetings, or digital dashboards, can be effective ways to disseminate this information.

Furthermore, celebrating small wins together or discussing potential roadblocks reinforces the idea that every individual’s contribution matters, fostering a culture of collective ownership and pride.

16. Get to Know your Internal Customers

Building personal connections goes beyond just knowing names. By understanding the unique circumstances, preferences, and aspirations of each team member, management can tailor support and opportunities accordingly.

For instance, flexible work hours for parents or personalized training programs for those seeking growth can make a significant difference.

Cultivating these personal connections enhances team cohesion, mutual respect, and understanding, leading to a more harmonious and productive work environment.

17. Give Frequent Customer Service Training

Customer service isn’t static; it evolves with changing consumer expectations and industry best practices. Regular training sessions ensure that the team is always equipped with the latest techniques and knowledge.

By instilling a deep-seated customer service philosophy and reinforcing it with periodic refreshers, organizations can ensure consistent, high-quality interactions, both internally and externally.

18. Train Employees About Other Jobs Within the Company

Cross-training not only ensures operational continuity in the face of absences but also provides employees with a broader understanding of the company’s workings. By gaining insights into different departments in a business, employees can better appreciate the interdependencies and collaborate more effectively.

Additionally, this diversification of skills can lead to more innovative problem-solving, as employees bring varied perspectives to the table.

Moreover, it instills a sense of value and growth, knowing that the company is invested in their multifaceted development.

internal customer service

What is internal customer service?

Internal customer service involves multiple departments within a business coordinating together to achieve the aims of the company.

For example, the recruitment process isn’t just a job for one employee or even one department. Someone will be responsible for advertising the job, another for screening and interviewing candidates at a service desk. HR will then on-board the successful candidate and provide orientation. The accounts department will then enter them into the system so that they can be paid. You may also involve the IT department or other industry experts who must ensure the new employee has the equipment they need all set-up and ready to go on their first day.

This requires a lot of cross-team communication and inter-departmental teamwork, all of which falls under the umbrella of internal customer service.

What are examples of internal customers?

Internal customers are anybody that has a relationship with or a role within a company.

Internal customer examples include:

  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • Partners
  • Stakeholders
  • Shareholders

What are examples of external customers?

External customers are anyone paying for the products or services a company provides but is otherwise not part of the company.

Such external customers include those:

  • Buying a product
  • Using a service
  • Customers renting or hiring a product
  • Clients paying for a provided service

To better highlight the differences between internal and external customers, let’s examine a side-by-side comparison:

AspectInternal CustomersExternal Customers
DefinitionIndividuals or departments within an organizationIndividuals or entities outside of the organization
ExamplesEmployees, Suppliers, Stakeholders, ShareholdersClients, Consumers, Renters of products/services
Primary ObjectiveFoster a positive and productive work environmentDrive sales, generate revenue
Interaction FocusCoordination, support, and communication within the organizationPurchasing products or services, customer support
Impact of Poor ServiceLow morale, reduced productivity, employee turnoverLost sales, negative brand perception, lost loyalty

internal customer service

What is the difference between internal and external customers?

External customers have been the driving force behind business ventures since business began, while the concept of internal customers is fairly new and ultimately a method for creating a positive and productive work environment.

External customers are the ones businesses are trying to attract to pay for their products or services, while internal customer service is about creating a positive and productive work environment for the people who provide the product to external customers.

How do you build relationships with internal customers?

There are a number of tried and trusted ways to build better relationships with internal customers.

These methods include:

  • Show respect and you will get respect in return.
  • Build trust in character and ability.
  • Open clear lines of communication.
  • Respond to feedback.

What effect does poor internal customer service have?

Allowing poor internal customer service to foster in your company means running the risk of losing your best talent as they become dissatisfied with their work experience.

Often the best employees are left picking up the slack from poorly trained employees who lack the abilities or knowledge to perform their duties correctly. This lowers morale, decreases motivation and ultimately inhibits productivity.

Image: Depositphotos

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Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. She is based in the United Kingdom and since 2006, Gabrielle has been writing articles, blogs and news pieces for a diverse range of publications and sites. You can read "Gabrielle’s blog here.".