Keeping Up Appearances – Internal and External Customer Care

Companies are happy to focus thousands of pounds on external customer service hoping to woo and retain customers. I know because at Stratus we are the happy recipients of some of that spending in terms of Customer Service training. Yet little attention is paid to the effect poor internal customer service has on customer satisfaction. It all starts within the organisation. Sooner or later the ripple effect of poor internal customer service reaches your customers. So if customers are to receive an excellent service then you need to treat your colleagues as customers too!

The internal customer chain works when everyone pulls in the same direction and there are no weak links. However it’s bad news when ‘Them & Us’ barriers start to develop between different teams or departments. Even though you might want to change things, you and your colleagues don’t always start with a clean sheet. There are bound to have been (perhaps unavoidable) problems in the past which might have left a feeling of dissatisfaction.

So, how can you play a positive role in giving your colleagues good internal customer service and also how can you encourage them to do the same for you? It’s not the blockbuster projects, but close attention to small details that makes the difference. Here are some common sense tips for better internal service:
• Respond to people without being chased by them (as easy as putting a date in your diary and placing a phone call; takes maybe five minutes)
• Keep colleagues informed about what’s happening on a project (such as copying them on an e-mail, simple yet mightily effective)
• Arrive on time for meetings (so others don’t waste time waiting for you)
• Never complain within earshot of customers. It gives them the impression your company isn’t well run, shaking their confidence in you.
• Never complain to customers about other employees, however justified. Who wants to do business with a company whose people don’t get along with each other?
• Build bridges between departments. This can be done through cross training, team events and out-of-hours social events as well as day-to-day niceties.

Once you have put plans in place to ensure your internal customer care is working well, then you can look at what you can do to improve the experience of your external customers. This is where our Three ‘C’s come into play.

The Three ‘C’s of Classic Customer Care

Over the years Stratus has delivered many successful customer care workshops but what is the real secret? There is plenty of debate around what people want from excellent customer service but we feel it boils down to three basic requirements. Give your customer the three things they want more than anything else – Control, Choice and Contribution. Great sentence – what does it actually mean?

The ability to affect the outcome of a situation or event in a way that brings the ‘correct’ results

When people feel out of control or impotent they tend to micro-manage the few areas where control remains, becoming picky and awkward over the most trivial of things. An airline passenger who is not in control of when the aircraft takes off and is not flying the vessel can become quite pedantic about something minor, such as the stowage space above their seat. If other passengers’ bags are already installed there, much grumbling and spreading of belongings to ‘own’ a bit of the environment can ensue! The problem isn’t the lack of room, it’s the lack of control.

Perceived flexibility, variety or room for manoeuvre.

People can become bewildered with too much choice but most baulk against being ‘told what to do.’ It is not the breadth of choice; rather it is the power that comes with the act of being able to choose that feels good. You don’t need to give a small child a whole menu to choose from in order for them to feel happy about eating their dinner. Often a choice of chicken or ham is enough to help them flex their ‘choice muscles’

Ability to add input for a common purpose or to suggest solutions.

Being consulted helps people feel important and nurtured. If the customer doesn’t feel able or allowed to contribute to the conversation/proceedings then they can feel displaced. In customer complaints where some recompense is in order, you may find that given the opportunity to contribute to a solution, the customer a) knows exactly what would make them feel satisfied and b) often wants less than you expected them to ask for – or indeed less than you were prepared to offer. But it is their solution so that is what makes it OK.

Action Point: If you would like to learn more about creating a great customer care environment – or if you want to learn more about providing the three ‘C’s to your customers, contact us using the details below to arrange a more in-depth chat with one of the Stratus team.

Sonya O’Sullivan – Stratus Associates Ltd
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About the Author

Alex McCann

Alex McCann runs Altrincham HQ - a Social Media Marketing company with 100+ recommendations on Linkedin and ranked Number 1 for Social Media Marketing in the UK on Freeindex


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