Before we get started, we need to think about what is a customer? What customer service is all about? We also need to think about whom our organization provides customer service. The simple answer to that question is everyone.
Who Are Customers?
A customer is, in this day and age, anyone who uses a service. Although this has its logical extremes – you will find few people who are overjoyed by the idea of being a customer to a doctor, or their children a customer of their school. Therefore everyone who relies on you to do a job that will have an effect on their life, their job, or their use of a product is technically one of your customers. Above and beyond that there are different echelons of customers – internal and external, corporate and personal, regular and occasional. These are always people that you will be well-advised to keep happy, so customer service is an important – indispensable, one might say – element of any job in which you have customers.
If, for example, you work in one branch of a department store, and receive a call from someone working in a sister branch of the same store wondering if you have in stock a particular item – one which their branch has run out of, for example, then that individual technically, and temporarily, become a customer to you. They want something and are hoping that you can deliver it. To do your job the way one would hope, you will go to whatever lengths are possible in order to provide the best service possible to whoever needs it from you.
Of course, the most regular customers tend to be the external customers who provide the “bread and butter” of any business, the regular day-to-day custom that drives the profits and income of a company. It is also these customers who will, by word of mouth and other means bring your business to the attention of other potential customers. Their role in a business’s success is essential, and these customers should be the immediate concern of any business. Ensuring that these customers are satisfied will make the difference between success and failure for any company.
External customers are anyone outside your company that you interact with — not just the people who buy goods or services from you. External customers are what can be considered ‘traditional’ customers:
- They take our products and services and pay for them
- They exist ‘outside’ the confines of our own organization
- They are open to approach from our competitors
- They may not always be dependent upon us for products and services and may switch away to our competitors
Internal customers include anyone in your organization who relies on you for services, resources, or information.
Providing excellent customer service to internal customers sets a positive tone for all personal interactions. If internal customers receive excellent customer service every day, they will consider this the norm. If they interact with external customers, they are likely to treat those customers the way they have been treated. Excellent customer service, like most types of human behavior, is contagious.
The quality of service you provide to internal customers ultimately affects the quality of service your company provides to external customers. Even if you never interact with someone outside your company, you are still engaged in customer service. An internal customer may look for any of the following:
Internal customers are the people in our own organization who are dependent on us for without whom they cannot perform their tasks to maximum efficiency, and this has either a direct or an indirect effect on the external customer.