The immediate assumption when we talk about “improving customer service” is that we refer to the activities of customer-facing team members who directly “serve” our external customers, clients, buyers, suppliers, guests, users, attendees, diners, students, patients, etc.
And in fairness, most service education is indeed intended for those who “face” customers – improving the quality of service for those who pay for our services.
But seeing service improvement as mostly a front-line, customer-facing issue will not foster the development of an uplifting service culture where all employees embrace the goal of constantly adding value for others. It is by creating this value – inside and outside the company – that firms compete and grow. Thus a key component of building service culture is working closely with those on the inside – all the internal service partners who work and interact with each other to provide an organization’s products and services.
When someone serves a customer, there is a necessary chain of people behind them that support what they do and how they do it. Any weak link could cause the service provided to break down. The folks in IT, HR, Finance, or Legal. Those on the plant floor, in Facilities or Operations. Even temporaries hired for projects or to fill-in for absent workers.
If the quality of their service on the inside is lacking, how can their colleagues facing customers and clients be expected to provide highest quality service? If Sales needs a custom order in a hurry, it cannot happen if Production has no motivation to serve. How can a new team member be motivated to exceed if HR does not on-board or orient them with an exceptional service experience? Why should retail clerks go out of their way to help if managers don’t go out of their way to help them?
If you seek to change the quality of perception of your organization’s customer service, focus on the inside, too.
If you manage an internal department, here is an exercise to pose to your team. Imagine the work of your group has been spun off – outsourced – and you have formed your own firm to provide the same services: HR, Finance, Legal, IT, Facilities, etc. All of a sudden, those who you were serving on the inside are now on the outside. Given the service you were providing, would they hire you back? Should they? What would you change about your service you were providing to be sure you got the job?
Does your work look different to you now? How is the quality of your service when perceived objectively – or competitively – from the outside? What level of service are you providing? What level have you been receiving? How can it be improved? Are there processes that are broken, or don’t yet exist, that would ensure you provide better service? Are your leaders encouraging internal service excellence? Are you and your colleagues delivering it?
And what about all the other departments that also provide internal service? Remember, as you improve your service to others, you will earn the trust and respect of your colleagues. You will inspire them, and you can ask for the same quality of service in return.
Want to be known for uplifting service by all those you serve on the outside? Start by uplifting the service you provide, to everyone you meet, on the inside.
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