An internal customer is anyone in the organization who needs assistance or interaction from another to fulfill their job responsibilities. This manifestation can happen in virtually any direction organizationally and is only limited to the fact that one party in the relationship depends on another.When we think of improving customer service, we typically think of external customer service, however it is just as important that your employees are focussing on delivering good service internally. Good internal customer service impacts efficiency and productivity, employee satisfaction and well-being and affects the quality of external customer service.
Below are our top 5 tips for improving communications in internal customer service.
- Listen Fully
All problems begin with at some stage someone not fully listening and understanding what someone else has communicated. When we listen, there are lots of things that can go wrong and prevent us from completely hearing what the other person has to say. We can make assumptions about what they are going to say, be distracted by other things that are going on, lose interest or misunderstand what they say. To listen fully to the other person, you need to make a decision to give that person your full attention and clear your mind of other things. Listening is a state of mind.
- Ask Many Questions
Linked to listening is the skill of asking questions. Rarely will the other person reveal everything you need to know. Not that they are deliberately withholding information, but they will be busy, stressed and only see their own perspective. They will not have thought of all the things you might think of in being the one delivering the service. It is therefore your responsibility to ask questions to fully understand the scope of work, the deadlines, priority and what is expected of you.
- Under Promise and Over Deliver
The problem that most people make in service delivery (internal or external) is that they are too keen to please the other person and make unrealistic promises and commitments. Poor customer experience is based on fulfilled or unfulfilled expectations. To increase satisfaction, you must exceed the expectations of the customer. This is the only way to ensure that you don’t experience frustration and disappointment from the other person. If someone allocates you a task on Sunday and you think you can get it done by Tuesday, ask them for a deadline of the end of the week and say you will try and get it done before then. That way if you suddenly get overloaded with work you have flexibility until the end of the week or alternatively you can deliver on Tuesday or Wednesday and the other person is pleased with your work.
- Share your Progress
Another common frustration in internal customer service is a lack of updates from the person who is performing the service. This leaves the other person wondering, is the work in progress? Have they forgotten about it? Have they come up against any problems? This creates unnecessary stress for the other person. We are not suggesting you give daily or hourly updates on your progress but there are a few circumstances in which you should communicate to the other person:
When Something Goes Wrong – if something happens in the work that affects your ability to complete it to the expected quality or prevents you from making further progress then you should communicate this to the person who assigned the work. You should communicate if you have a solution and share that solution and you should communicate if you do not have a solution and ask the other person for help.
When You Cannot Meet the Deadline – it is really important that if you are going to miss a given deadline that you communicate this to the other person in advance of the deadline. Do not wait for the deadline to arrive or pass as this could have negative consequences on other parts of the work/project. Your planning here is essential, make sure you have a good idea of your progress, so you can let the other person know how much extra time you will need.
You Are Not Sure What To Do – There will always be situations when we are not sure how to proceed or have forgotten or lost a critical piece of information. It is imperative in these situations that you do not guess information or carry on hoping for the best. Often a quick call or email to clarify can prevent a lot of problems further down the line.
Just because you are delivering a service to someone else that does not mean you should blindly accept every request that comes your way. Usually others will always say that their work is urgent in order to get it to the top of your priorities list. You will need to negotiate to uncover the true deadlines and priorities of the work. Find out what else is dependent on your work, who is waiting for this and what is the impact of it? This can help you to find the true deadline.
Also remember that sometimes it is OK to say NO! If you have too much on and are unable to deliver the work to the required quality within the deadline then sometimes it can be better to say no, and they can find someone who is able to do it.