A few weeks ago, I was teaching a customer service class. One of the exercises split the group into small teams and they were asked to identify all of their customers. The lists grew, and the flip charts filled.
As I walked from group to group, I began to notice something. All of the lists were outwardly focused. I stayed quiet, but kept walking around the room. The lists continued and so did the focus outside of their organization.
Focusing on the outside customer is not a bad thing. We all need the customers outside of our organization. However, once the teams got up to present their lists to the rest of the room, they realized that there was an entire customer base they had missed. They missed their internal customers.
The teams went back to their lists. The lists rapidly grew and so did the realization. These various organizations or departments didn’t exist by themselves. Each team had an array of departments, individuals, or people that they provide customer service within their own operation. Some realized that a majority of their work is providing service to internal customers.
One team in particular had an interesting observation.
“We wonder if our continued focus outside, and essentially ignoring our internal customers, is a major reason why our external customers are not completely satisfied.”
That observation hit home with all of the teams. As we set customer service goals later in the session, each team began with goals to increase their internal customers’ satisfaction first, before tackling the other customers.
As I drove home from this session, I began to make my list of internal customers. The list included my co-workers, other departments, my wife, my kids, my family, and my friends. As I set goals for my external customer’s satisfaction, I also wrote down a few goals for my internal customers.
We all have internal customers. Do we focus on them? Spend a few minutes today making a list of your internal customers. A little focus internally may be just what we need to be better externally.