Extraordinary “Everybody” Service
As a customer service manager, I always knew when one of our supervisors was out of the office. The buffer between me and our front line customer service team was gone and all of the questions and escalated calls funnelled to me – whether I liked it or not. It’s not like I had other stuff to get done anyway.
I’d love to tell you that I handled those exchanges with the awesome customer service that I preach in my blog posts. The fact of the matter is, you were more likely to catch me rolling my eyes, sighing, halfheartedly listening while thinking about all I needed to get done, rushing them along, and most certainly doing just about anything I could not to take their escalated call. Sound familiar to anyone?
If you’ve been in customer service long enough, you’ve likely been on both the receiving and the giving end of that exchange.
In the event that I did agree to take that escalated call I would put the attitude away and put on my super customer service hat and exemplify awesome customer service. Did anyone else have a mom who no matter how in trouble you were, if the phone rang, she could change her tone of voice in an instant and answer the phone as if she hadn’t just been yelling at her kid for something they did? That’s kind of what I’m talking about here.
So as a leader that was my typical behavior for many moons. That was until I heard this quote from Jan Carlzon (which I probably quote way too much, but bear with me).
“If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.”
The first time I heard that quote, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I began to realize that the way I treat my team directly affects the way they treat customers. I realized that the customer service I was providing as a leader was inconsistent. Where I delivered awesome customer service to the customer on the phone, my INTERNAL customer service left something to be desired.
What are some examples of internal customer service?
Depending on your role within your organization, you may provide both internal and external customer service on varying levels. Let’s talk about a few examples based on your role:
- Frontline Customer Service Representative – You are Tier 1 representative and probably spend nearly your entire day interacting with external customers. Perhaps you occasionally field questions from colleagues or you support a group of employees who are out in the field meeting with clients or making deliveries? Does the quality of the customer service you provide differ based on who you are talking to?
- Tier 2 – You’ve proven that you can handle just about any customer service challenge thrown at you. That’s why you’re in a Tier 2 role. The beauty of this role is that you have Tier 1 there to sift through all of the issues and only send you the most serious. How do your interactions with Tier 1 compare with your interactions with the customers they send your way?
- Supervisor – You probably interact with external customers much less than you interact with the frontline folks you supervise. Compare and contrast the way you treat both sets of customers. Is there a difference?
- Management, Executive, IT, etc. – This is my “everybody else” category. You almost never speak directly with customer, and if you did you would have to put the customer on hold to ask a Tier 1 basic questions about how to navigate your systems. Chances are, however, that you have strong feelings about how the “Customer Service Folks” in your organization speak with customers. Does the way you speak with and about those folks align with the way you want them to speak with external customers?
I think you see what I’m getting at. Regardless of how frequently you speak with external versus internal customers, there should really be no noticeable difference when it comes to attitude.
The INTERNAL customer service you provide should match or even exceed your EXTERNAL customer service.
Here are a few practical tips to improve the quality of your internal customer service encounters:
- Physically position yourself for focus – When a colleague approaches you for assistance, physically unplug from what you are doing, look them in the eye, and smile. This shows them that they have your complete focus. In some cases this means getting up and walking to their desk to best assist them. Even if you have a billion other things to do, act as if nothing is more important than helping them in that moment.
- Assume an open stance – Sit up straight and uncross your arms and legs. This posture shows them that you are open and willing to receive what they have to say.
- Always remember the customer – Whether you are interacting with a peer or someone that you lead, remember that they are representing an external customer. Your focus should be on teaching, equipping, collaborating with, and empowering your colleagues to serve and solve better and more quickly and efficiently.
In conclusion, spend some time thinking about all of the customers in your life – some you get paid to serve and others not. Focus on delivering consistent customer service to EVERYBODY you encounter. That will leave you better equipped to succeed in serving the internal and external customers you are paid to serve and it will better equip them to serve their customers as well.
Head of Quality
Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.