Internal Customer Service – 4 Ways You’re Doing It Wrong

Storm clouds

Internal service is often subject to factors that we’d never tolerate in an external customer facing situation. In organizations we tend to assume that a lower standard of internal service exists and that it has little or no impact on our bottom line.

People in HR, finance, IT and many other administrative roles play a major role in the efficiency of the organization. This means that when internal service is done well, things run smoothly. When internal service is done poorly, things tend to get stuck.

If all of this is news to you, or if it’s been a while since you’ve taken a long hard look at your internal service practices then this post is for you. It’s time to make it right. But first we need to look at 4 areas where things are likely to go wrong:

1. Keeping Customers at Arm’s Length

What is the likelihood that you will have direct contact with your customer? If you answered “not likely”, you may have a problem. The further we distance ourselves from our customer, especially in administrative functions, the harder it is for us to feel our customer’s pain points and understand how to fix them.

Barriers to customers can be infrastructural (such as office setup and location), by design (certain positions are non-customer facing), and cultural (simply not prioritizing service). No matter the reason, the greater the distance between you and your customer the greater the likelihood that you will make decisions that are unmoored from their core needs. It doesn’t take a genius to know that that can lead to some incredibly bad decisions.

2. Letting Anecdote Guide Practice

“From what I can tell, everyone seems fine”. “We haven’t heard anything negative about the product rollout”. “I heard several people say they liked the food we served at the event”.

Ah yes, the anecdote. Let’s all base our customer service plans on the stories we tell and see what happens. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? There’s no way that personal bias and reputation protecting office politics will work its way in to the equation right? WRONG.

If you have anything to do with customer service at work, be absolutely certain that internal anecdotal evidence doesn’t rule the day when it comes to making decisions about service. Instead, measure service levels with the same “data centric approach” you would with external customers and then take action based on the information you get!

3. Demonizing Angry Customers

We’ve all “dealt” with our fair share of angry customers. “Can you believe that guy? Who does he think we are??? Read the policy!”

Did the customer yell when they shouldn’t have yelled? Were they rude when they didn’t have to be? Did they ask for something that is clearly not within your line of responsibility? Possibly, but what are we doing about it?

It’s easy to demonize an angry customer. But apart from being an easy stress release for everyone involved, these conversations can mask the larger problem that the customer is facing and keep us from asking the questions that need answers:

Why are they angry? What led them to react that way? What could we have done to prevent this from happening???

4. Assuming Internal Customers Have No Choice

The average human attention span is down to just 8 seconds. Did you catch that? The average human attention span is down to just 8 seconds!!! That makes it incredibly easy for your customers to lose interest in you and what you do if you’re not consistently getting better.

If you are in a non-customer facing position, your customers are most likely internal and that means that instead of going elsewhere (let’s face it, payroll is your only option for payroll issues) your customers are likely to stop meeting you halfway. What does this mean?

Let’s stay with the payroll example. If your customer finds your processes inefficient and sees virtually no improvement, they will choose to avoid interacting with you except when required. This means fewer proactive calls alerting the payroll team about potential issues, and a lot more time spent fixing things that could have been prevented.

You may be the sole provider, but your customers always have a choice in terms of how much effort they are willing to put in to the relationship, and that can have a very REAL cost to you.


Image credit: By cjohnson7 from Rochester, Minnesota (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


2 thoughts

  1. Great post. Customer service has certainly changed from the way it used to be. Sometimes we almost feel like we have to apologize for being the customer! We need to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes.

    Liked by 1 person

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