Are colleagues customers? Internal Customers

Colleagues as customers: Importance of understanding internal relationships

By Dr. Monica Burns-Capers, Ph.D.

Editor’s Note: While the sentiment expressed in this article is a good one — making sure one treats one’s colleagues in ways that promou ote effective work, there is the question of whether “colleagues” are actually customers, and whether we should even call them customers. There’s a danger in calling everyone a customer, because doing so obscures the DIFFERENCES between different groups of people who have very different roles at work. For example, in a sense your boss is your customer. And so is the guy you deliver pizza to, but you don’t behave the same way with both, and your expectations are different. Likewise for colleagues. The relationships are different, longer lasting, than with most customers. So, while I agree with Monica’s basic sentiment here, I think we need to be MORE exact and specific, not less.

Usually when we talk about customer service, it’s almost always directed towards the treatment of customers and clients buying our products and services. However, after the brief encounters with your clients and customers are over for the day, you are still performing your customer service job duties with your internal customers, which are your coworkers.

Management and communications
Management should always set the example for exemplary customer service. If you haven’t oriented your staff on what “effective customer service” looks like, how can you expect anything more out of them? If they are performing unsatisfactorily, maybe it’s because they’ve observed you talking rudely and insensitve to a coworker. Most employees emulate those who are superior to them in their jobs; and more often than not, it’s because management are the people that they aspire to become.

Insensitive management

Most managers are clueless to the emotions of their employees. This isn’t something that should just be written off, because you think that emotions doesn’t apply to work. The cliched saying “don’t bring your personal problems to work” is easily said than actually done. Everyone, at some point or another, has had an overlapping of an experience that has undoubtedly accompanied them to the workplace. Managers must keep this in mind when they are harshly criticizing employees, especially if you are unprofessionally disciplining employees in the presence of others. You don’t know what’s going through a person’s mind when you come at them in the wrong way. If you notice that an employee seems unusually quiet, upset, and not performing at their required potential, why not try inviting them into a private area – maybe your office – and have a talk with them. You can’t expect stellar customer service – internally or externally – from any employee after they have been emotionally battered and scolded by management.

Unhealthy competition
There is no way that any business or organization can survive when everyone is constantly backstabbing, bickering, and unhealthily competing with each other. How can one effectively thrive, learn, and work in this type of dysfunctional work environment? And for those who want to, you need some sort of mental assistance! Most of us are blessed to have a job that we actually love going to each day. For those who don’t have many choices, they are sometimes thrown into situations that hinders their abilities and their growth. They tend to shut down for fear that another idea will be stolen, someone will take credit – once again – for their work; and most importantly, because they know that management will do nothing to improve the work environment or the situation. This is definitely a case that requires mandatory organizational restructuring and organizational management training. We’ll be required to clean house from top to bottom! And as the saying goes, ” be careful how you treat others, you never know who you might have to answer to one day!”

Management and their cliques
First of all, management is not allowed to be involved in any cliques where subordinates are affiliated. It’s just plain silly to think that you can be best friends with an employee that you manage from day-to-day! It is mandatory and imperative that you keep this behavior away from the workplace! Besides, it is not fair to the other employees to see that their manager has a close relationship with another employee on their same level. At this point, internal customer service is null and void. It can’t effectively exist in this environment, because management wants to be friends with everyone! In this situation, a manager can’t efficiently project the professionalism necessary, along with other leadership qualities required to perform their jobs.

Internal customer service is an integral component of external customer service. You can’t have one without the other. If you can’t effectively and professionally communicate with your coworkers, how can you even begin to service your customers and your clients. You and your coworkers all benefit from each other’s particular expertise. If you can’t get along with an employee who possesses a skill that a particular customer or client needs, how effective is that in serving your customers? Once your customers and clients get a feel for the dysfunction that is your business or organization, this is a great way to lose them!

Copyright (c) 2009. Monica Burns-Capers, Ph,d. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Dr. Monica Burns-Capers, Ph.D Is A Featured Expert Writer, Life Coach, Organizational Management & Behavior Consultant, and President-CEO of Monica Mi’Chelle Communications: A Professional Writing and Management Consulting Practice. and

Author: Guest Contributor

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