Understanding the Importance of Internal and External Customer Service in Your Organization
Trust and empathy are the heart of a successful customer service strategy. An organization’s ability to understand customers' needs and emotions is powerful. Acknowledging concerns and frustrations builds trust with clients. Empathetic customer service turns satisfied customers into brand advocates who eagerly promote your business to others.
Customer service is broadly categorized into two essential components: internal and external customer service. Both types are important and address two distinct sets of customers. At Sōllah, we believe addressing both sets of customers correctly is key to achieving sustainable success.
What is Internal Customer Service?
Internal customer service references interactions within an organization between employees across different departments. Employees are internal customers because they rely on each other's services to achieve specific goals.
The primary goal of internal customer service is to create a supportive and efficient work environment. Quality internal customer service reduces inefficiencies and heightens productivity. Even more importantly, it makes employees feel valued.
What is External Customer Service?
External customer service supports and assists external customers. These are the end-users or clients who purchase products and services.
This role involves actively engaging with customers. External customer service adequately addresses queries and resolves issues. The primary goal of external customer service is to foster a positive customer experience that builds loyalty and encourages repeat business. Satisfied external customers are more likely to become advocates who will recommend the organization to others and contribute to its long-term success.
Creating loyalty by focusing on the customer
Being interrupted by a ringing phone when you're dealing with a face-to-face customer can be a real challenge. It's like you're being pulled in two different directions at the same time. So, what do you do?
The Importance of Internal Customer Service
When we think about customer service, we often think solely of interactions with external clients. However, internal customer service—and how departments interact and cooperate—is equally important.
A harmonious internal customer service culture promotes collaboration and boosts morale. When employees feel supported by their organization, they are motivated and provide better external customer service, creating a positive feedback loop. Thus, the quality of internal customer service shapes the quality of external customer service. When employees feel valued, supported, and empowered, they are more likely to extend the same level of care to external customers.
The Benefits of Internal Customer Service
Often, internal and external customer service go hand in hand. Effective internal customer service benefits employees and external customers alike in the following ways:
Improved Employee Morale and Engagement.
Employees who experience positive interactions and support from their colleagues feel motivated to meet internal and external customers' needs.
Imagine a customer service representative encountering a complex issue requiring technical support. After reaching out to the technical support team, they receive prompt assistance. This positive interaction makes the representative happy and motivates them to provide quick and accurate solutions to external customers.
Now imagine the technical support team responding in an avoidant, unhelpful, or rude way. Such an experience would promote the opposite and make the representative feel frustrated and upset. These feelings would likely translate into their external communications. They would feel reluctant and unmotivated to provide external customers with exceptional care.
Knowledge Sharing and Skill Development.
When internal customer service is prioritized, employees are inclined to support each other's development. A better-trained workforce is the result of knowledge-sharing culture. Such a culture equips employees with the knowledge to address numerous external inquiries. For instance, a billing department that is well-informed on customer service practices can assist customer service representatives and address billing-related issues.
The quality of internal customer service directly impacts the quality of external customer service. When organizations foster supportive and collaborative environments for employees, their workforce is equipped and motivated to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Exceeding internal customer expectations creates a ripple effect that increases customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, sustainable business growth.
Effective Communication and Collaboration.
Quality internal customer service relies on cooperation between departments. External customers benefit from internal teams that work cohesively.
For example, a marketing team that communicates upcoming promotions to the sales team promptly ensures customers receive accurate information and experience a smooth transaction. If the marketing team responds in an untimely or ambiguous manner, it could confuse and hinder the buying process.
Strategies for Improving Internal Customer Service
Improve Communication Channels
Establish open communication so employees are informed, engaged, and aligned with the company's goals and values. Keep employees informed through regular meetings and updates to ensure they always have the necessary information.
Train & Develop Employees
Provide ongoing training and development opportunities to empower employees with the skills and knowledge they need to excel in their roles. Encourage cross-training to promote understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities.
Recognize & Appreciate Employees
Recognize and appreciate employees' efforts and contributions. Acknowledge appreciation through verbal praise, awards, or a simple thank-you note. Valued employees are happier employees, and happier employees contribute to positive work culture.
The Benefits of External Communication
Exceptional external customer service creates improved customer satisfaction. Organizations that promptly address issues, offer empathetic support and exceed expectations foster trust and loyalty. Further, top-notch external customer service can almost guarantee:
Positive Brand Reputation
Customer service cultivates a positive brand reputation. Satisfied customers share favorable experiences with others and generate positive feelings regarding the brand. Conversely, poor customer service quickly damages a brand's image and leads to negative word-of-mouth.
Increased Customer Retention
Exceptional customer service improves customer retention. When a business consistently meets customer needs and surpasses expectations, patrons do not need to seek service elsewhere. Repeat business from loyal customers sustains revenue and increases those customers’ lifetime value to the company.
Prioritizing external customer service is not a short-term strategy. Instead, consider it a gateway to long-term business sustainability. When a business has a reputation for delivering exceptional service, it acts as a buffer during challenging times. These businesses are better equipped to weather economic downturns and unexpected crises.
Strategies for Improving External Customer Service
Handle Complaints Gracefully
Train staff to handle complaints professionally and empathetically. Guide your staff member toward expressing genuine empathy toward customers' concerns. Help them understand the customer's point of view and focus on turning negative experiences into positive ones.
Provide Quick Response Times
Set clear expectations for your staff regarding appropriate response times. Ensure your team meets or exceeds them. Train your team to promptly acknowledge inquiries, even if a full resolution needs more time. Your team should know that their acknowledgment of the customer's message shows that their concerns are taken seriously.
Prioritize Customer-Centric Training
Provide comprehensive training emphasizing active listening, empathy, problem-solving, and effective communication skills. Incorporating these skills into training programs creates teams that feel empowered to build positive rapport with customers.
Featured Programs from Sollah... Ready to Implement!
When it comes to providing exceptional customer service, you can never be too prepared. Programs like Sōllah Interactive's Johnny the Bagger® A True Story of Customer Service™ and No Problem! Serving Others with Respect™ equips employees with the skills necessary to navigate difficult situations. Reach out today and learn more about how we can help you and your organization thrive!
Inspire your workforce to deliver service from the heart. This inspiring, best-selling program features the true story of "Johnny," a young man who made a positive choice about his personal responsibility to provide from-the-heart service and changed the culture of an entire organization. Use Johnny the Bagger to empower and excite all employees about bringing their best service to the front-line of business.
“Customer service” is sometimes used as a buzz phrase. We hear that great customer service, for our external customer, depends on excellent internal customer service. But what does that mean? Having satisfied customers leads to increased revenue and increased brand awareness. Having satisfied employees is the key contributor to a company’s success — especially in tough economic times.
When most people pick up the phone or walk into an office or a store, they pretty much expect the service they're going to get is indifferent at best, and most of the time is going to be plain awful. It doesn't have to be that way! The truth is... we all make the difference in how a customer feels about our organization; not a policy, not a manager... It's us. If you can help move a customer issue or complaint to a “no problem", then you're going to feel great about doing what you do. And, your customers are going to go away feeling like you treated them right.
YOU (the employee) make the difference in how a customer feels, not a policy, not your manager...you! The intent of this course is to show customer service staff and employees some ways of handling difficult situations so that they can effectively respond and leave the customer with a positive, memorable impression.