• Tracie L James

The Importance of Internal Customer Service

Companies battle every day to keep their customers. They deploy countless tactics and have teams of employees focused on this goal. No matter what these teams develop the company often falls short because they don’t see the need for a key element. Often leaders on so focused on maintaining and growing the bottom line, they sacrifice their most important resource... their employees.

I’ve experienced it as an employee and I’ve witnessed it in businesses I’ve worked with as a consultant. Leadership is looking at numbers that show customers are leaving and their profits along with it. As business professionals, we know it costs more to attract a new client than it does to retain them.

Despite this knowledge, most leaders miss how important their employees are to making this happen. I know I missed it early on in my career. It wasn’t until I began to do consulting work that I could see it. I would observe employees who are on the “front lines” of the company be mistreated and then expected to provide excellent customer service experiences. How is that even possible?! How can we as leaders expect their best when they’re not being treated well? I say enough is enough. Fix your customer retention issues by fixing your employee issues.

Here are my ten commandments to Excuse Proof your internal customer service:

1. Treat your team as you would like to be treated. We can often forget what it’s like to be in your employee’s position. It’s important to treat others the way you want to be treated. Apply the Golden Rule and you’ll see your team respond likewise.

2. Build a relationship with your team grounded in trust. If your team doesn’t trust you, you’ll never be able to lead them anywhere. They will just be following their paycheck. Be a woman of your word and do what you say you will do. Keep your commitments to them.

3. Maintain an open line of communication Be open to hear about their struggles providing service to your customers. You may not see it as an issue, but it’s their feelings... their reality. You don’t have to agree with their perception to help them resolve it. Don’t ignore their complaints. Address it and do your best to resolve it.

4. Create a culture that takes their well being into consideration. Treating employees like they’re robots will create a toxic environment. Policies are out in place to provide structure, but leaders must use the human touch to implement them. When employees are afraid to use a sick day, they come into work and make other employees sick. Even worse, they will not provide quality work until they feel better.

5. Establish schedules that meet business need and the needs of your team. It can be hard to manage both, but when you don’t you’ll lose customers. It’s been proven that companies that provide flexible work schedules have employees who are more engaged and committed. This translates into better service to your clients.

6. Make training and development a requirement for everyone. Some employees are assertive enough to ask for development, but others will not say a word. When you invest in their development, your customers will benefit. Give them what they need to do their best for your customers.

7. Empower your team to take care of the customer on the first call. Make sure your employees have what they need to take care of the customer on their first call. You lose customers when they get frustrated and the process is too complicated. You know the general requests so you can provide them with options to resolve them without involving you on every complaint.

8. Encourage your team to work together to accomplish goals. Healthy competition only. The customer never benefits when employees are pitted against each other. Healthy competition is great, but the customer still must be at the center of it. Applaud great work without making the rest of the team feel inadequate. There must be some balance to it.

9. Clearly identify goals and let your team know how each goal helps the company accomplish its vision Conflicting team goals leads to confusion. You can’t say customer service is the most important goal and only reward sales goals. If you want great customer service, you must reward it.

10. Ensure your team feels valued and appreciated for the work they do each day.Showing appreciation for the little things will create a desire for your team to do more of them. Your actions let them know what’s most important to you and the company. Make time to applaud a customer’s problem being resolved as you would a large sale to a new customer.

Overall, don’t make excuses for why you don’t have time or money to take care of your team. Make the time if you’re truly interested in retaining your customers. Without engaged and committed employees, you will constantly be looking to replace instead of add to your customer base.

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