Steps to improve internal customer service
By Grace Marks
Special to the Times
Oct. 10, 2013
Effective external customer service depends on excellent internal customer service. Unhappy, unmotivated, or uninformed employees negatively impact internal customer service, which gets projected onto external customers. Addressing these common workplace issues can boost morale, improve job performance, and enhance the quality of external customer service.
First, you must examine your conscience - Ask yourself if you are happy and satisfied with your job. Do you avoid gossip, complaining, and triangulating (a three-sided relationship of two against one)? Do you share important details to keep everyone in the loop? Are you are a team player? Do you leave your problems at home? Just one "no "can negatively impact the work environment.
Second, are there unclear expectations? Employees commonly complain they don't have clear job descriptions with specific goals and expectations. Performance appraisals or feedback are inconsistent or non-existent creating anxiety and frustration. Employees report they mostly receive negative feedback and rarely hear a thank you for a job well done or for meeting an important deadline. A specific acknowledgement goes a long way in feeling valued and appreciated.
Information exchange -- Changes in policies, procedures, systems, or operations are standard for most any business. Are changes trickling down to those who need the information to effectively perform their job in a timely manner? Not being equipped with pertinent details affects service delivery -- both inside and out. Assess communication channels to assure everyone is on the same page armed with the latest changes.
Slow response to emails and voicemails -- Some employees are slow in responding to internal customers. Delays may include not having the answer, having to research the answer, waiting on another employee or department to supply details, and not liking the person who made the request. Any of these actions jeopardize service and an employee or business' reputation. If a response is not possible, respond within the same day to acknowledge the message and provide a timeframe for a response. Unexplained delays can hinder workflow and affect others.
Avoid the "It's not my job" syndrome -- Demonstrate a willingness to step in and go the extra mile. This demonstrates team spirit and can motivate and inspire others to do the same. Everyone's job is to do what's needed to help the business and get the job done.
Be proactive with gossip -- Employers must communicate and define behavioral expectations and keep everyone accountable. Gossip is a form of bullying and can quickly bring down morale and teamwork.
Cross-train or orient employees -- Employees report they want to know more about what their co-workers or other departments do. Having a better understanding helps employees respond to problems more quickly. Orienting employees to their co-workers roles and responsibilities clears any misinformation and preconceived judgments.
Survey employees -- One of the fastest and easiest options to get a clear analysis on where internal customer service stands and where it can be improved is to conduct an anonymous employee survey using sites like SurveyMonkey.com. This program can be used to assess internal customer service across a variety of categories making it easier to pinpoint problem areas and develop a plan of action.
Taking an honest look at internal customer service will reveal obstacles and roadblocks that create confusion, doubt and disempowerment. Choosing one or two action steps can make a significant difference in workplace health and harmony and external customer service.
For the past 26 years, Grace Marks, MPH, CPC has combined her unique blend of education, expertise, and cultural experiences to help Native Americans bring health and harmony back into their personal and professional lives. If you have specific workplace issues that you would like addressed in this column, please direct them to Grace@NativeEmpowerment.com.