Internal Customers

When the economy gets rough, and it certainly seems like things are trending that way, certain elements of running a business that were always important become even more important.

Great customer service is vital, and the best customer service starts by focusing on your internal customer.

An internal customer is an employee, or someone with whom employees interact inside the organization as part of their regular job or responsibility. Internal customers are stakeholders in your business. Their overall experience directly impacts the quality of the product or service you deliver to your paying external customers.

Before you hire someone, do you make sure they reflect your core values? Wait, your organization doesn’t have core values? Think about what traits or qualities reflect your most deeply held beliefs businesswise. Try to keep them simple and write them down. Look for them as you hire, train and evaluate your employees. If someone isn’t a good fit, then they will never be truly happy with you, nor will you be truly happy with them.

Empower that internal customer with knowledge and skill. The days when you could just hire a “grunt” to plug a hole on a crew and let them sink or swim on their own initiative are way behind us.

There are right and wrong ways to develop employee proficiency, and one of the fundamental mistakes is to assume everyone has the same base of knowledge or learns the same way. Never assume – ask.

A great employee may be rare, but a great employee who also can become a great trainer, coach and mentor is rarer still. If employee development was a Monopoly game, the trainer is where you would put the hotel.

Especially in a high-hazard industry like ours, training frequency is very important. In fact, our industry surveys have shown over and over that as training frequency goes up, accidents go down.

I’m a big fan of the training crew, where, in the right circumstances, training can take place in a safe space throughout the day. But creating “teachable moments” throughout the day can work very well, too.

Finally, recognition is important. Call the employee out in front of their peers when they go above and beyond and demonstrate one or more of your company’s core values. And it doesn’t have to be a gold watch and fancy dinner. Simple praise is very effective when it’s frequent, consistent and sincere.

Success is when employees are face to face with that external customer and every employee is a positive reflection of you and your company.

Peter Gerstenberger, publisher

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