Internal customers are a company’s employees. Training your employees to provide outstanding customer service—regardless of your industry—will aid your company's bottom line and help increase your market share. Yet internal customer service—the treatment of employees across departments and hierarchies—is just as crucial. Effective internal customer service training will make both your customers and your employees happier. Customer service training isn't just for profit, either: government agencies and nonprofit organizations can use these tips, too.
Before creating an internal customer service training program, it is important to understand some training basics. Author and customer service expert Robert Bacal suggests that employees learn better through concrete, as opposed to abstract, situations; training that addresses specific employee complaints is extremely valuable. Bacal's training technique is to provide employees with effective phrases and sample dialogues that can diffuse upset internal or external customers. Bacal also reminds employers to expand the definition of "customers" to include not just those who hand you money, but anyone who expects to receive services from your organization—including employees. Government and nonprofit agencies should treat internal as well as external customers with the same high standard as businesses do.
Devising an internal customer service training program also requires an organizational commitment. John Tschohl understands this. Tschohl, described by "Time" magazine as a customer service guru, says that great customer service can mean a culture change within the company. He lists crucial program criteria, such as earmarking 10 percent of the organization's marketing budget for training every single employee. Two other key factors, according to Tschohl: 40 hours of customer service training per employee per year and the setting of standards and goals with strong supervisory support.
A common sense approach to creating an internal customer service training program is to involve each department in your organization. Hold a round-table discussion. What areas, products or services give employees the most trouble? Have employees been particularly confused about a certain department? Asking questions across departments—then addressing those problems specifically through training—is critical.
Understanding how employees learn best and getting an organizational commitment are the foundation of the customer service training program, as well as great first steps. Specific training techniques are needed, however. Role-playing is one of the most effective customer service techniques used today. Use role-playing with scripts, in front of your entire team or department. Write the scripts as employee to employee, keeping in mind Bacal's specificity of customer issues—an accounting department employee has a problem with the sales team, for instance. If team members seem hesitant to participate, don't be afraid as a supervisor or human resources manger to jump into a role yourself.
If role-playing can help employees understand other employees, then observation can aid management. Department heads should observe other departments on an ongoing basis, noting where systems or communications break down. Supervisors can then train their own direct reports to overcome the problems, improving overall internal customer satisfaction. “Internal customer service can flourish only in high communication environment(s),” says customer service trainer Donna Earl. Earl believes that internal customer service must concentrate on boosting moral and aligning departmental goals.