Food for Thought: Is worrying about the wrinkles on the face more important than the functionality of the heart or the lungs? Not in my opinion, yet so many people are focused on the outer appearance, while the inner workings of them are often overlooked. Recently, I’ve come to think about this in the small business world. Ideally, most people think of customers as people who buy their product or services. However, there is a someone that often gets overlooked and left out of the customer satisfaction equation: the internal customer.
An internal customer is a person within our organization that may depend on us for products or services that will effect the ability to satisfy the external customer. For example, you could be a customer service representative that is responsible for releasing orders to the distribution center. The people in the distribution center is the internal customer. They depend on your releasal of orders in a timely manner, so they can pack the goods which are being shipped to the external customer. In a retail environment, the internal customer could be the manager or cashiers or other sales floor associates.
Unfortunately, we become so focused on our exclusive role within the organization, that we don’t think about the internal customers that are dependent on us to effectively do their jobs, as well. So, here are a few suggestions that may allow us to better assist our internal customers.
1. Get familiar with business practices and processes throughout the organization that are directly or indirectly related to your role whenever possible.
Knowledge is power. By becoming familiar with the processes and/or practices, you recognize which things are within your control and which aren’t. It’s also likely you will have a better understanding of what your role in business is and why it’s done a particular way. Quite often, it could allow you to determine more beneficial ways to better serve both the internal and external customer. Your knowledge could actually lead you to develop alternative practices that are of a better use of your time and/or others you work with. But you can’t be sure it won’t affect others, if you don’t know what and why they do what they do.
2. Ask if there are opportunities to cross train.
I know you’re probably thinking, “I have enough to do in my position now. What’s the need to learn to do something else?” Cross training allows you to be able to possibly assist someone else who you may depend on to get your job done. For example, you may work in a restaurant and be a cashier, if you cross trained as a waitress, you could actually assist with waiting tables if things got hectic. Another perk to cross training is instant leverage for yourself. Now you are more marketable for other opportunities within your organization. When companies are considering laying off people, you’re more valuable if you can do multiple roles.
3. Use your time wisely and be a team player. If you have some free time available in addition to your normal breaks, be willing to assist others (with permission, of course) with their work. If you’re helpful, quite often others will help you when you’re in need. Managers and owners need to be aware of this also. It’s important for us to show that we’re willing and able to get our hands dirty sometimes too. It can truly serve as a morale booster.
In the end, none of us could do what we do alone. We depend on others everyday to keep our businesses running efficiently and we are depended upon, as well. We should strive to satisfy our external customers to keep them buying our products. But it’s going to be more difficult, if we aren’t appreciating and showing compassion towards our internal customers. The successful business is the equivalent of the healthy body. If heart, lungs, and kidneys (internal customers) are functioning properly, it will certainly shine through to the outside!