Internal Customer Service: Definition And Best Practices
⏱ Reading Time: 12 minutes
Imagine a scenario where a customer service team leader wants to hire a new representative. The funny thing is they would not do this on their own. There are many employees in the company that would work together to get the job done.
For instance, a recruiter will post the job, screen, and interview candidates. Human resources will provide orientation to the person who got hired. Payroll would enter them into the system so that they can get paid. The IT department will ensure the new hire’s workstation is set up with all the necessary tools to do the job.
Multiple departments are responsible for internal customer service. When you run a business, taking care of employees is just as important as delivering impeccable external customer services.
Fortunately, internal customer service does not always get the same scrutiny as its external counterpart, but on the flip side, it is often ignored. Yet both concepts are vital to a company’s success. In this article, we will look into what internal customer service is precisely, why it is essential, and how can you implement it in your business to achieve growth and loyal employees:
Who Are Internal Customers?
External customers are the people who pay you for using your product or service. In case they have any queries or complaints, your customer service department looks after them. They could choose to purchase from the competition and even stop buying from you altogether if they feel like it. The reason you run your business is to serve them. External customers are also called “accounts” or “clients.”
On the other hand, internal customers are any stakeholders in your company you serve. Some examples include temporary workers, contractors, or full-time employees; these are typically dependent on each other to undertake the company’s job.
In a nutshell, all the stakeholders working for your business or dependent on your business are your internal customers. The goal of internal service is to help someone else so that an external customer service receives better service.
What Is Internal Customer Service?
Internal customer service is an integral part of the employee experience as it solves any problems of your employees and helps them maintain an effective workflow. The most popular example is the IT department of your company. Suppose an employee of the sales department is having trouble accessing their VoIP. In that case, they will reach out to the appropriate internal customer service team, i.e., your IT department, for troubleshooting or fixing the error.
You can identify such a service in your company quickly as it is not directly customer-facing and involves more than one team member in the transaction. Basically, every department that provides a support function to other departments falls under the internal customer service category; for instance, HR, payroll, facility management, marketing, and so on.
The three common characteristics of internal customers are:
- Closer relationships: They have tighter bonds with the people they work with. As opposed to a relationship with the client, for instance, the call center reps only cater to the clients but do not share a close bond with them. To an extent, reputation management, in the form of customer service is a part of their job.
- Frequency of interactions: They serve the same internal customers more often. For instance, an IT department could help the marketing team on a regular basis.
- Two-way service: Internal customers serve each other. On the other hand, in an external setting, a customer with a query, for example, does not offer support to the call center representative.
Picture 1. Customer service qoute
Why Is Internal Customer Service Important?
Delivering excellent service — whether to your customers or employees — requires commitment. But doing so has massive benefits. If your business aims to focus aggressively on internal customer service, here is what you are bound to achieve.
1. Increased Productivity
Frequent bottlenecks can damage the workflow of your employees and can decrease their productivity levels. A high functioning internal customer service team can help employees have a smoother workday and finish tasks conveniently.
2. High Employee Retention
Research shows that replacing highly-trained employees can cost you 200% of their annual salary. If the attrition rate is high, you will end up bleeding money. That is why employee retention is crucial for your company’s growth. Your internal customer services will help you keep your employees satisfied, happy, and focused at work — thus retaining them for long.
3. Better External Customer Service
Your employees act as a support department for all your customer-facing services. When the support functions are provided effectively, your actual customer service representatives can work without any hassle, help consumers quickly, and offer tremendous external customer service. Is that not the end goal of your company?
Internal Customer Service Best Practices
Do not be surprised when we tell you that brands such as HCL and Virgin follow this philosophy and put their employees first. Interestingly, for them, everything else just falls into place. According to Gallup, companies with a highly engaged and happier workforce are 21% more profitable.
Through robust internal customer services, you can ensure that cross-departmental responsibilities are carried out more efficiently. Here are eight practical internal customer service tips for your organization to follow right now.
1. Create a Culture of Service
This goes without saying. Create a culture in your workplace that rewards respectful behavior, professionalism, and politeness amongst employees. Ensure that your work environment discourages unprofessionalism.
Send periodic emails on office etiquettes. Run communication workshops. Actively penalize poor behavior at work. All of this would make new hires more comfortable in your company and help them adjust easily.
As 48% of workers find videos to be the most engaging form of communication, videos for internal customer service is a force to be reckoned with. Using the online video editing tool InVideo, you can incorporate videos in your internal customer service plan.
The kind of videos you can create for the teams to refer to include:
- Improved onboarding for new hires
- Creating “how-to” videos for internal processes
- Designing an engaging explainer video for an internal webinar
- Creating product demo videos for the launch of new features
- Embedding them into your company’s employee newsletters
2. Understand the Purpose of the Teams
Generally speaking, there are several departments in every company. Now, your teams could be smaller in terms of size, but every team and their members must understand their roles and responsibilities and be accountable.
The customer-facing departments can work efficiently only if they have strong support from IT, HR, marketing, and so on. For example, if your IT staff member forgets to fix the VoIP of a salesperson, the latter would not be able to work efficiently.
For example, the main objective of telephone customer service is to be available, helpful and empathetic. Their role is to process customer inquiries including issues, payments, or technical questions. This means, three departments would be involved – tech support, telephone customer service and reclamation.
3. Maintain a Schedule
Your internal customer service providers are a busy bunch, and they cannot be called for last-minute requests or handling petty issues by employees whenever they wish to. You must set clear guidelines about what internal customers can reasonably expect.
This would decrease the communication gap within the company. Also, your employees will know precisely when to reach and how much time they have to wait to get adequate help. This would ensure the internal service providers are not bombarded with multiple requests simultaneously.
For instance, employees might think they can walk into the IT department anytime with their issues. What they do not realize is that this would disrupt the workflow of the IT officers. With a schedule, they will be able to manage all requests efficiently and in a structured manner.
Instead, having centralized data in EngageBay CRM facilitates better communication. The information can be shared with both external customers and internal stakeholders and employees in a smooth and transparent way. The result is improved efficiency between multiple teams by ensuring that they have access to the right information at the right time.
Picture 2. Time tracking statistics
4. Set a Conversational Tone Between Departments
Since these are your internal stakeholders and they are not communicating with any customers, the communication does not have to be completely formal all the time.
You can set a conversational tone between departments so that the workflows are free from any bottlenecks and your employees can cut down on any formalities. Although, that does not mean you can take professionalism out of the scene.
Your employees need to address each other with respect in a casual and friendly tone and be forever willing to help those in need. For instance, if your sales associate is great friends with one of the IT guys, it will be easier for him to put in a request to put his team’s computers upgraded. Relationship building matters a lot in the workplace.
5. Set Up Internal Service Metrics and Standards
Most people might think that internal customer services are qualitative, and it is tough to measure their success. They could not be more wrong. Here are a few metrics you can use to evaluate how your departments are faring in delivering internal customer services:
- Average response time: This refers to the total time taken to respond divided by the number of responses during a select time period.
- Average handling time: This stands for the average duration of the entire customer call transaction, i.e., when a call with the customer begins when it ends after the problem has been resolved.
- Employee satisfaction NPS: This simply means the level of satisfaction of an employee after receiving support from an internal department.
Besides these three metrics, you must keep track of the timeframes and days your employees are the busiest in the weeks. That way, you can inform them about every department’s peak period and accordingly delegate time for internal customer services.
These metrics will help you evaluate the progress over time. When you have enough data to compare, you can implement necessary changes and see what works the best.
6. Create Solutions for the Long Run
It is great to have an internal customer service team to solve your problems. But you need to find out the root cause of the problem and provide long-run solutions to avoid bottlenecks. For instance, if you know that your analytics team has trouble connecting with data centers, have a meeting with your facility manager and map out a solution for eliminating the problem altogether.
That way, the facility manager can focus on the bigger picture, such as strategy-making, and does not have to waste time fixing smaller issues more frequently. When you create solutions for repetitive problems, you can eliminate the back-and-forth between the employee-in-need and the internal customer service provider.
7. Create Multiple Channels for Servicing
Communication is key to ensuring your employees work smoothly and finish tasks-in-hand promptly. Therefore, you must set up multiple channels such as email, SMS, live chat, and even project management tools to reach out to your internal customer service provider.
Furthermore, the product roadmap tool can help you track events and deadlines. For efficient internal communication, a transparent workflow ensures that each team member and stakeholder knows the status of the project. The information is also streamlined between multiple departments, thereby reducing unnecessary questions and important information from getting buried in email threads.
This might sound overwhelming in the beginning, but it makes the job of your employees easy. Due to increased accessibility of the internal customer services, they will be able to connect to the appropriate personnel faster, resulting in increased productivity.
8. Explain to Internal Customers How Problems Can be Solved
When a problem occurs, there are chances that the employee who raised the query can solve it on their own. It would be a waste of time for the internal customer service team to fix it for them and waste their own time in the process.
Therefore, create resource pools for the employees for repetitive issues. You can also ask each department to develop guidelines or a step-by-step help book to resolve repetitive problems and explain their root cause to the internal customers.
How to Effectively Implement Internal Customer Service
It is pretty simple. Implementing internal customer service includes the following tasks:
1. Label Your Employees as “Internal Customers”
Re-labeling them would help you create the culture you want as it would reflect in the communication. Calling someone your “colleague” versus calling them your “internal customer” can make a lot of difference.
2. Train Your Employees to Communicate Properly
Unclear communication often causes a lot of holdups between employees. Internal communication and employee engagement directly affect each other. Good company culture includes internal team communication training, a key aspect for making employees feel valued and appreciated. This goes hand in hand with attracting top-notch talent and keeping team members happy and productive. Using JotForm survey maker, you could regularly ask for employee feedback to know if your processes are right or if they need to be tweaked.
3. Reward the Praiseworthy Work
Reward and recognize employees who have gone out of their way to help co-workers from other departments in the time of need or urgency. Motivated employees will step up their game and contribute to your company’s growth. As they say, “an organization is a group of satisfied employees who work together towards organizational development.” As a result, employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction.
Wrapping It Up
There is no doubt that internal customer service will help your company function smoothly and boost every department’s productivity. We are hopeful the above-mentioned internal customer service best practices will help your employees to serve each other better.
Priyanka Desai is the founder of iScribblers, a content marketing, writing and link building agency for SaaS, B2B and technology companies. She regularly contributes to publications such as Keap CRM, TechWyse, VoilaNorbert and Twinword among many others. You can reach out to her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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