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It’s What’s Inside that Counts

It’s What’s Inside that Counts

April 14, 2008

It should be no surprise that the way people treat each other within an organization impacts how they ultimately treat external customers. In other words, good internal service drives good external customer service.

How employees are treated is a reflection of an organization’s internal service culture. To assess your firm’s service culture, ask your employees: Would you refer a friend to work here? It’s a loaded question, but the answer will provide you with tremendous insight into what employees think of your organization.
 A strong service culture starts with recognizing ‘internal customers’ – employees whose job functions depend on other employees. For example, a manager who needs to replace an employee or reorganize staff would be considered an internal customer of Human Resources; a department head who needs a special data report is an internal customer of Information Services; etc.

Recognizing Each Other’s Work

Employees can better serve their internal customers when they understand how their work is interconnected. Programs that involve job shadowing and role switching help build empathy for other employees and reinforce teamwork and a sense of common purpose.

• An advertising agency initiated an “In Your Shoes Day” where employees in different departments shadow each other to better appreciate the variety of functions that collectively serve their clients.
• A package delivery company encourages its drivers to go out on calls with the sales staff to gain a better perspective of what is involved in getting a client’s account. The sales reps also accompany the drivers on their delivery runs to understand what is involved in keeping an account.
• A hotel chain participates in an “In-Touch” day where corporate employees go into the field to work at different hotel properties. A marketing executive may work a shift with the bell captain, an internal auditor or accountant might work in housekeeping, and an information systems specialist may assist in the kitchen.

Management Involvement

Top management support is also critical to create and reinforce a service culture. Being so far removed from daily operations, many executives recognize the need to connect with their employees and customers.

• The president of a credit union works as a teller for a day so he can spend more time with branch staff and customers.
• Corporate employees of a chain restaurant take turns working a shift at one of their restaurants. Top managers of a cleaning service firm take time out once a year to clean client offices (including the bathrooms!) to show their support for frontline employees.
• Working in the field reminds executives what it is like to be on the frontline. And in receiving management’s attention, employees feel more valued.

In a strong service culture, employees get the message “We’re all in this together.”

Information courtesy of Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care

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