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helloInternal Customers
Internal Customers – They’re Important Too!

During a corporate stint with a cable television service provider, I happened across a service installer with a not-so-pleasant look on his face. I inquired as to the source of his displeasure. He passed me his work orders while saying “Read those Errol and tell me what you would do!” After reading the work orders, it became apparent that he would encounter difficulty in determining what services the customer actually ordered.

I asked “Okay, so what will you do when you arrive at the customer’s home for the installation?” to which he replied, “I’ll ask the customer what they ordered.” That didn’t sound quite right so I asked another question “How does that make you feel?” He responded quickly – “It doesn’t make me feel too good Errol.

I should be verifying what they ordered, not asking!” While it’s important to make sure that a purchasing customer is satisfied, it’s also important to make sure that our internal customers are satisfied as well. Here are the steps that I recommend.

Identify What You Contribute

Get everyone within the organization to identify their product. In other words, what do you create within the organization? Are you able to express your product as a noun? While it’s quite easy to do in a manufacturing setting, it’s not always considered in the service industries. In the above scenario, the product is a work order.

A hospitality industry product might be a reservation. In the training industry, the product might be a manual. A product in the marketing industry could be a brochure. After identifying your product, let’s give it a specific name. Is it a report? What’s the name of the report? Perhaps it’s a sales report or production report. In the hospitality industry example, the reservation may be more specifically defined as a room reservation.

In the scenario above, the product is a work order, but more specifically it’s an installation work order. Be specific in naming your product. Doing so helps you to identify your internal customer. What you produce is more than likely utilized by someone within the organization.

Identify Who Utilizes What You Contribute

After everyone puts a name to their contribution; now get them to identify who utilizes their product. To continue the initial scenario, the product was identified as an installation work order. So quite naturally the installation department utilizes this product.

If equipment is required for the installation, inventory control and/or the equipment warehouse are probably users of this product. If the manual created within the training industry is a sales manual then the sales department is the likely user for this product. The user of the room reservation might be the check-in clerk or the housekeeping department. Now let’s move on to why it’s important to know who utilizes your product.

Identify The Requirements of Your Internal Customer 

I like to say that providing great internal customer service is like baking a cake – you have to know what ingredients are required for the finished product. While some people can probably bake a cake from memory, most of us would require a recipe to make sure we’re including the correct ingredients.

Do you know what ingredients are required by the users of your products? The easiest way to find out is to simply ask! In the room reservation scenario, might it be smart to ask the check-in clerk if the reservation contains pertinent information that allows for a timely customer check-in? If that is not the case, then simply inquire as to what ingredients are required in the quest to provide great customer service to the purchasing customer.

What about that production report? What information do the users of that product require? In what format? How often? Knowing the answers to questions like these helps one to design a product that fits the needs of their internal customers. Consider that patient appointment – what information does your internal customer require to provide great service to the patient?

Design Your Product According To Your Internal Customer’s Requirements 

Now that you’ve identified your internal customer’s requirements, design your product to meet their needs. Doing so insures that when your internal customer utilizes your product, they can do so without the need to make changes as this most often creates delays in workflow or decision-making. If your internal customer deals directly with the purchasing customer, a flawed product design may contribute to a less-than-great customer service experience.

Just as it’s important to design products and services to meet the needs of your purchasing customer, it’s just as important to do the same for your internal customer. You can accomplish this by Identifying What You Contribute, Identifying Your Internal Customer, Identifying the Requirements of Your Internal Customer and by Designing Your Product According To Your Internal Customer’s Requirements.

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helloInternal Connectivity
Internal Connectivity – 3 Ways to Determine How Well Your Company is Connected

While it is important to focus on sales growth and profit margins, it’s also critical to understand what is connected to a company’s ability to function well internally.

You know how the saying goes – “what happens on the inside becomes visible on the outside.” Here are 3 ways to determine how well your company is connected internally.

Core Values

It is a good idea to have a set of core values as they are connected to the culture of the company. Core values should define as:

How the company will treat the employees.

How the employees will treat one another.

How everyone will treat the customer?

When these are defined with core value statements and adhered to, the culture should be a positive one where everyone is treated with respect and dignity – even when disagreeing.

No one is allowed to violate the core values as they are the company’s foundation. Are your core values well-defined and adhered to by all?

Role Descriptions and Performance Standards

Role descriptions act as another agent of connectivity in two ways. First, they provide detailed information regarding what role is responsible for what tasks.

Secondly, role descriptions are connected to the training experience as they act as the training outline for the role. When a new employee or an employee moving to a new role is trained, the role description is utilized to ensure the person receives training for each task that they will be held accountable for performing.

Performance standards are connected to a couple of items as well. They speak to the bar to which the person is held accountable when performing tasks listed in the role description. Combined with the role description, this is connected to employees receiving an objective performance review.

Most employees prefer objectivity vs subjectivity when it comes to performance reviews. When employees feel that they are managed objectively, morale tends to be higher. So, we can say that objectively managing employees is connected to employee morale. How well is your company connected in this area?

Processes

Remember, when we listed the role tasks in the role description? Well, more than likely there is a process for completing the tasks. Analyzing your current processes is connected to your company’s ability to operate efficiently and effectively.

When processes are analyzed with employees that participate in the process and or are impacted by the process, cross-functional connectivity is addressed to ensure the needs of all within the process are met.

As a consultant, I often find that task completion procedures are not captured in any format. Creating written or video procedures for completing tasks is connected to employees being properly trained which is connected to customers – both internal and external customers – receiving a good experience.

Procedure creation is also connected to the retention of task completion knowledge vs someone having this critical information in their head. What are the consequences should this person decide to leave the company? How well is your company connected in this area?

Internal connectivity is important to a company’s long-term viability. Look at the three areas discussed in this article. What does the internal connectivity look like at your company? Check your connections to ensure you stay on the path to longevity.

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helloSales Tactics Do Create Customer Experiences
Sales Tactics Do Create Customer Experiences

How often have you heard this statement from customer service personnel within your company – “I wish those salespeople would think about what they’re doing when making promises to customers.

I’m tired of being yelled at for something that’s not my fault.” It’s important to remember to only promise what can be delivered when interacting with potential customers – especially when they are purchasing big-ticket items.

Here are a few things to remember when using promises as sales tactics to sell products and services to customers.

Promise Only What Can Be Delivered

During my years in the corporate world, the issue of “Why did the salesperson promise that without verifying if we could meet that commitment” would often arise. That statement was usually followed up with “They only think about their commission!” While it’s understandable that salespeople are motivated by potential commissions, it’s critical to make sure that sales guidelines are in place to ensure a positive impact on those persons within the organization that have to service the customer.

Whether it be customer service, accounts receivable or any other department that interacts with customers, salespeople must understand and adhere to the policies and or procedures when in sales mode.

Should the need arise for special consideration in order to “get the deal”, check in with those persons who will be impacted by whatever the consideration is before making promises to the customer? Remember – customers view the people within your company as “the company”.

Develop Internal Relationships

Years ago when beginning a corporate stint as an account manager/project manager, my first week was spent meeting those persons with whom I impacted in performing my role. My first question was – “How does what I do impact you?” That question was followed by this one – “What is it that you want me to do to make your job easy?” This question was followed by this one – “What is it that you don’t ever want me to do?” Asking these questions allowed these persons to elaborate on what they were held accountable for and how performing my job could either bring positive or negative consequences for them. By taking time to develop internal relationships, one communicates “We Are A Team” to others within the company. Yes, it takes additional time to ask these questions, but it’s well worth it later in the relationship!

Be Accountable for Your Actions

Should issues arise due to sales methods, it’s the responsibility of the salesperson to be accountable. I think salespeople should be kept abreast of every issue related to promises made, but not kept, that arise with their customers.

Doing so would assist in understanding the impact of one’s actions. Persons required to service the customer after the sale should know that they will receive the same internal considerations afforded to the paying customer.

When salespeople are held accountable for their sales methods, the level of employee morale increases as one does not fear having to regularly interact with customers who were provided unfulfilled promises during the sales process.

The sales component of a company’s business model is most likely the original experience for potential customers. Make sure that your salespeople understand their impact on the total customer experience by making sure they Promise Only What Can Be Delivered, by requiring them to Develop Internal Relationships, and by encouraging them to Be Accountable for Their Actions.

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helloBenefits of Analyzing Work Processes
3 Benefits of Analyzing Work Processes

In a current client engagement, we are analyzing their work processes. Now more often than not, this can be very tedious work. The whole purpose of undertaking this task is to assess the present condition of the company’s operations in regard to efficiency, customer centricity, and employee productivity.

While this may seem to be a daunting task, the return on the time investment is well worth the effort. Let’s look at three benefits of analyzing processes.

Insights Gained

An important step in process analysis projects is to interview the people who actually perform the work in the process. I like to spend time with clients’ employees as they perform their duties and document step-by-step what they actually do when completing job tasks. The amount of insight gained from this approach usually proves very enlightening to management personnel.

Oftentimes, employees develop their own set of work steps to complete their tasks within the process. When they deem the process too cumbersome or inefficient, employees will create “workarounds” in order to get the work done in a timely manner – especially when their pay is tied to performance. After completing this task, opportunities to remove delays or inefficiencies and to introduce improvements become apparent.

Teamwork

It’s true that most processes are cross-functional – meaning they may start in one department and travel across others within the company. Analyzing processes requires participation from everyone that performs a task within the process.

I like to get all of the participants in one room and go through the process step by step to insure that “yes – that’s how we do it today.” Then we start to get process improvement ideas. Discussions arise in regard to the proper way to complete the steps within the process.

Employees can communicate face-to-face to build a process that fits the needs of all departments, stakeholders, and customers. Once done, employees feel as though they have a stake in the success of the process, as they were given the opportunity to communicate their ideas and concerns.

Enhanced Training

Proficiency in one’s assigned tasks helps to build confidence in employees. Training is one way to assist in building proficiency. As a company analyzes and documents all of its work processes, training tools become easily creatable.

These documented processes can be used to develop standard operating procedures and policies. Both new and tenured employees now have a reference point to insure they are properly performing their assigned duties.

“How to” documents and videos are some additional training products that can be produced when one develops and documents efficient employee and customer-friendly processes. Your entire operation will certainly run smoother, your employees will be happier and your customers will certainly receive great service.

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