One of the most overlooked gaps in well-meaning organizations is recognizing the need to treat internal customers even BETTER than external customers—at least initially. Within an organization, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of your fellow employee as your family that you can treat however you want because “they have to love me, they’re family,” when in reality, they are your most important customer. Why? Because how we treat each other within the organization is a reflection of how we are going to treat our external customers in the long term.
One of the first things to think about then, as we look at creating a culture of service, is how well do we ask for and listen to feedback from teammates on how we are serving them. Let me give you a great example I heard just this past week to illustrate this point.
I have a very good friend who is a professional golfer on the PGA Tour. My husband and I had dinner with him last week and he shared with us how he meets with his team at the beginning of each year to set goals for the season. I was surprised to hear that in addition to his caddy, he has a personal trainer, a swing coach to help him with his golf swing, a short game coach to help him with his short game, and his agent. While in their meeting, my friend gave his swing coach some feedback about how he would like to see him out on the golf course more to be able to better analyze his swing and offer suggestions. The swing coach did not like the feedback his team member (as well as his boss!) gave him, and became very defensive about the feedback and was clearly not open to hearing it. The end result was that my friend hired a new swing coach who was committed to delivering on the service my friend was looking for.
Good service begins at home
Just because we work for the same company doesn’t mean we should treat our fellow employees as second class citizens. On the contrary, we need to listen to them and thank them for their feedback the same way we would to an external customer. My friend’s swing coach didn’t understand the idea of “serving the golfer” to help him get better and it cost him his job.
Ideally, this internal customer focus will start at the top of the organization with senior leaders recognizing the importance of consistently providing both the positive and constructive feedback to employees about what is expected of them, praising them for what they do well, and giving them ideas where they can improve. Next, individual department leaders should continue the process by encouraging team members to ask for feedback from each other, as well as from other departments on how well they are serving them.
Learn from the positive and the negative
One important note about negative feedback. When someone complains about your service, or shares some unpleasant feedback with you, remember they must care enough about you to share it and want you to improve, so thank them for the feedback! If my friend’s swing coach had done that, he probably would still have his job!!!
About the author:
Kathy Cuff is one of the principal authors—together with Vicki Halsey–of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their customer service focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.