The internal customer is not new, nor is it a purely public sector concept. The idea was first used almost forty years ago to describe different forms of administrative relationships within the private sector (Sayles, 1964). It stemmed from an understanding that in any organisation all staff are both the providers and receivers of services and, critically, if poor internal service exists, then the final service to the external customer will be diminished.
The quality management movement brought the concept of internal and external customers. Traditionally the focus was on external customers with little thought given to how internal departments interacted. Improving relationships with internal customers and suppliers assists delivery of better customer service to external customers, through reduced lead-times, increased quality and better communication. The “Service-Profit Chain” model developed by Harvard University emphasizes the circular relationship between employees, customers and shareholders. Under-staffed, under-trained employees will not deliver good quality customer service, driving customers away. Equal effort must be made in attracting, motivating and retaining employees as is made for customers, ultimately delivering improved shareholder returns. Better shareholder returns mean more money is available to invest in employees and so the circle continues.
A survey of organizations shows dramatic
improvement in internal service quality over
the last decade.
• Superior internal service appears to result in
superior business performance.
• A major differentiator is culture, including
leadership committed to an internal service
strategy and the alignment of employees with
The quality of service provided by front line staff is largely dependent on the quality of support they receive internally.
For a customer service culture to become embedded in an organization, it must be demonstrated by everyone, in all aspects of their work, to both external and internal customers alike.
Employers have a responsibility to provide employees with the facilities and support required to perform their jobs safely and effectively. Best practice ICS ensures that limited resources are used most efficiently. This maximizes benefits for both internal and external customers as well as the organisation itself.
►Identifying and addressing the needs of your internal
►Ensuring that your employees receive the support they need from their internal suppliers
►Encouraging, acknowledging and supporting initiatives and examples of good practice ICS.
►All employees recognize that excellent customer service to a colleague deserves the same in return.
►Employees work in an environment of trust and shared
►Effective training programs are used to ensure employees are committed to achieving results.
► Effective lines of communication are established between internal customers and suppliers so that each has a clear
understanding of the others work.
Fairness, Equality and Respect Partnership, Consultation & Involvement ► Communicating to employees that each has a responsibility to ensure that a positive and effective internal customer service culture exists.
►Communicating to employees that it is important to treat their co-workers fairly and to acknowledge their input and views.
►Ensuring that rules and procedures are applied fairly.
►All employees regardless of rank, role, location, division or status as an internal customer or supplier see themselves as working in partnership to provide high quality external customer service.
►Ensuring continuous and effective communication between
internal customers and suppliers.
►Ensuring decision making processes are transparent and
involve consultation with employees. This helps foster and
environment of wider ownership and inclusiveness.
In order to develop a strong ICS culture...