If you want to increase customer service with your end customer, it is important that everyone in your organization starts to think of themselves as customers and suppliers to each other within departments. For example, in a manufacturing company, Operations is a supplier to Packaging, and Shipping is a customer of Packaging. In a university setting, Recruitment is a supplier to Enrollment, and Registration is a customer of Enrollment. When departments and employees see themselves as integral parts of a team and how reliant each department is on the work provided by the other, the less they see themselves as silos working independently within an organization.
When an organization does not foster the concept of working together as a team internally, feelings of blame and distrust rise to the surface. You hear phrases such as, “I can’t believe they would have told you that!”, “They don’t know what they are doing, let me tell you what you need to do”, “it’s not OUR fault, it is their fault”. The end customer doesn’t care who is at fault internally, they only care about whether you delivered on your promise to them. It creates a bad impression of the organization as a whole when employees blame and point fingers at other departments.
Here are five steps to improve internal customer service:
1. Set up a meeting with the department you deliver the most output to or who uses the output your department provides the most.
2. Ask this department what would be the things that your department could do better in providing that output, that would make it easier for the department to do their jobs.
3. Identify the actions then that you need from them in order to do the things they would appreciate getting from you.
4. Agree to communicate these actions on both sides to all the rest of the employees in your respective departments and set a date to follow up.
5. Meet on the designated follow-up date to share if the agreed upon actions have improved relationships and made it easier for both departments to do their best work.
For example, one of my clients used this 5 step process and it was determined in Step 2 that the supplier department needed to print more legibly on the forms they were providing to their customer department. Mistakes were being made and schedules backed up because the writing was too hard to read. This supplier department then shared in Step 3 that what would help them the most would be getting a longer lead time from the customer department. They both agreed to work on these actions with the other team members in their departments so everyone understood the new requirements. When they met for their follow-up date, everyone was amazed with the results that these seemingly minor actions had made to the ease of everyone’s job and the improvement in relations.
The key now is to CELEBRATE and repeat the 5 Step process.
As departments continue to work together vs. separately, the silos will disappear , morale will improve, and end customers will ultimately be happier because these positive feelings of helping each other will bubble up to them. Great things can happen, when people work together and have a common goal of pleasing the customer.