Customer service typically conjures up images of dealing with customer issues or complaints from members of the public. While providing excellent service is an important factor of any organisation, many deem customers to be only those who use a service, pay for a product and ultimately ensure you receive a salary; however, there is another type of customer that is crucial to the success of any business.
Internal customer service means having positive interactions with anyone the business relies upon for its day-to-day operations. This includes co-workers, other departments, suppliers, distributors and external contractors. Internal customers play an important part in delivering the end service or product to the external customers.
According to Shep Hyken, best-selling author, speaker and customer service expert, customer service is not a department but a philosophy. He suggests that service must be a total commitment not just for the front line, but also for every employee of any business from the mail-room attendant to the janitor to the president to the CEO. Everyone has a customer. If it is not the outside customer, then it is the internal customer.
In order for an organisation to run smoothly, internal customers must communicate effectively with each other. Each department, supplier or service provider is part of the chain of events that ensures the end consumer receives their product or service on time and of the standard expected. Teamwork is essential to provide a high standard of service throughout the organisation.
Many organisations have a standard operating procedures (SOP) manual, which is a set of guidelines and instructions for company policies and processes. This is often used in inductions and training so that each employee knows their boundaries of responsibilities within their role or department. Service level agreements (SLA) are often drawn up to provide external contractors or suppliers with details of minimum expectations of the goods and services they provide. Using both as guidelines allows internal customers to provide a better level of service to each other.