Internal customer service – the service provided to fellow employees and other departments with your own organization, suppliers, and other vendors – is a key factor in determining whether or not your company will be able to provide exceptional customer service to your patrons. How employees interact with co-workers, colleagues, and vendors is a good indicator of how they will interact with your customers. If a receptionist is consistently rude to your delivery man, chances are she will be rude to your client at some point.
Particular attention should be paid to stressing the importance of inter-office customer service. Company success depends not only on helping your customers, but on employees working together to help each other succeed.
Here are some things I’ve learned about creating a service culture within an organization:
Forget treating colleagues like customers. That only works if you treat your customers well. Treat colleagues like YOU want to be treated. I once worked for an organization that treated neither their customers nor their employees well. This lack of internal cooperation and customer service resulted in a “me versus them” atmosphere that was incredibly stressful, decreased morale significantly (destroyed would actually be a better word), caused several volunteers to quit, and eventually led to myself and several other staff members resigning and leaving the organization. The end result was that the success of both organizations suffered.
Consistently go beyond what is expected of you. Turn projects in early. If you see something out of place, fix it. Help coworkers or other departments when able. At the organization I previously mentioned, I was not allowed to help a sister organization with projects, even if my own work was done. There was a one-sided power struggle going on that was completely childish and unnecessary. My employer would rather I sit at my desk with absolutely nothing to do than spend any time assisting the other organization. And told me as much.
Instead of viewing interruptions as inconveniences, try to see them as chances to help someone else be successful. But be sure you can identify the difference between a necessary interruption (helping a coworker find information) and an unnecessary one (gossip). Find ways to swiftly, yet tactfully, avoid or redirect unnecessary interruptions.
Respect the time and workload of others. Take the initiative to look up information yourself first instead of constantly asking others by default. By only asking questions that you can’t readily find the answer to, you will help your colleagues to view the interruption as necessary and not an inconvenience.
On the other hand, part of being a good coworker is building relationships. It is okay to occasionally chat about family and personal issues, but make sure to set appropriate limits so that personal discussions do not detract from the work day. And if you know that your colleague is extremely busy or facing a deadline, send an email instead or wait until later to bring them up-to-date on your personal news.
Hearing “thank you” never gets old. People want to feel seen and appreciated. Just because it is someone’s job to do something doesn’t mean you don’t need to thank them for doing it. Feeling appreciated goes a long way, and can be the difference between a person hating their job or loving it.
What are some of your best tips for fostering good employee relations?