We all think of customers as those who we provide products and services to, and as the primary reason for our existence as an organization. We also make sure our team understands how important customers are, which leads to consistent high quality customer service, and a healthy and growing organization. What we tend to forget is the customer relationship dynamic that must be present internally. Without it, the ultimate goal of taking care of our primary customers becomes much more difficult to achieve.
Internal customers are everywhere. They are the people we work with, other departments, partners, vendors, etc.. We absolutly need one another in order to service our primary customers. The unfortunate side effect of having a large focus on our primary customers is that while individuals are doing everything they can to take care of them, they forget team dynamic / internal customer relationships. Sometimes they even believe they are working against one another. In the most severe cases, internal team members become unapproachable by one another, which will become deadly to the common goal of having happy customers.
Who are our internal customers? From a leadership perspective, it is really just about everyone on the team; other leaders, their team members, our direct team members, and even our partners and vendors. It is most common to neglect this when we are extremely busy trying to take care of the primary customer, and there are periods of time when it just happens because of workload and the needs of our primary customers. In those cases we do have to prioritize and take care of the customer, which is the right thing to do and deserves our total focus. However, we have to make adjustments so that we can get back to improving the organization by fostering positive and motivating internal customer relationships as well. If other organizations are anything like the organization I am part of, there is no shortage of focus on the primary customers. We absolutely have the fundamental of focusing on our customers nailed. We will do just about anything to make them happy and we spend the vast majority of our days doing just that. It is our most important common goal, but we too forget about each other and it is usually when we are overwhelmed by taking care of the primary customer.
We should take some time to think through our list of internal customers and do a checkup. How are those relationships? Does everyone feel they can come to you with ideas and for help or guidance? Do you feel you can go to them for the same things? What can be done to foster more teamwork between individuals and teams? How are we serving them? How can we serve them better? What is getting in our way/what adjustments need to be made? The reality and what we all understand is that we absolutely need each other and must provide service to one another in order for us to achieve long-term customer satisfaction, not to mention a positive and motivating work environment.