For this essay, you will explore both internal and external customer service and consider ways to provide excellent service to customers within an organization and outside the organization. Your essay should address the following questions:
Explain your definition of internal customer service. How do you personally provide excellent internal customer service to your colleagues?
Explain your definition of external customer service. What is an example of an organization that you feel provides excellent external customer service? Describe this organization and how it provides excellent customer service.
How has social media and the Internet changed customer service? What suggestions can you give to an organization that is struggling with online customer service?
External customers are the people that pay for and use the products or services your company offers. When brainstorming problems and designing solutions, these customers are who you’re designing for.
To be clear, an external customer is a person who is not directly connected to your organization other than by purchasing your product or service. This customer could be a one-time purchaser or a person who’ve you worked with long-term and to whom you’ve provided add-ons or customization options. External customers are also known as “clients” or “accounts.”
The goals for your external customer can depend on your product or service, i.e., repeat purchasing, referrals, positive reviews, and otherwise supporting your company. You might follow up after-purchase—or during—to conduct formal or quick-pulse surveys. “The customer is always right” is generally the guiding principle when serving this group, and the revenue they generate is the lifeblood of your company. Without them, your company fails.
Internal customers have a relationship with, and within, your company, either through employment or as partners who deliver your product or service to the end user, the external customer. Less obvious but certainly still significant, stakeholders and shareholders are also internal customers. All of these may or may not purchase your product or service.
External customers have been inherent in business since people started making and selling products—a long time! The idea of an internal customer, however, is a more modern one. For instance, Six Sigma encourages identifying internal customers as a way of creating a more positive work environment.
That positive work environment includes things like kind and empathetic leadership, fair and equitable pay, comfortable working conditions, the latest technology, and so on. The thinking goes: the higher employee morale, the more those employees work with integrity and productivity. That morale can also come from the idea that they are contributing to something larger, which ripples out positively to improve how they work. One school of thought connects satisfied internal customers with happy external customers.
Beyond the feel-good psychology, though, using the term “internal customers” may have some tangible benefits. For teams who work with both internal and external customers, it can help them prioritize problems and timelines to improve inter-department communication. Treating everyone as a customer may also encourage employees to take each other just as seriously as they would take a referral or complaint from an external customer.