Nonprofits exist primarily to serve others. Whether you call them customers or clients (or patrons or students), your organization’s ability to meet their respective needs is central to its mission and longevity.
Of the non-profits that can truly claim customer service superiority, one thing is certain: Every employee owns a piece of that prize. Simply put, a non-profit cannot achieve customer service excellence without first attaining high levels of efficiency, quality, and productivity among its internal service providers.
Emphasize Internal Customer Service
All too often, non-profits place a strong emphasis on external customer care while losing sight of the fact that internal customers matter just as much. Why does it matter? Because somewhere down the line, the service provided to an internal customer will show up in an external customer transaction.
(Just in case it’s not obvious, an internal customer is defined as any employee who depends on the timing, quality and accuracy of a colleague’s work in order for them to succeed in their own work.)
As a customer service consultant, what I’ve seen is that those organizations in which a customer care culture is truly embedded do not make distinctions about internal and external care. Each employee’s mission is simply to demonstrate excellence with each and every task. There’s an implicit understanding that every job is a “customer service” job.
Start With Awareness
In developing an enterprise-wide customer service training program, my colleagues and I created an activity called The Ripple Effect. (Just like it sounds, the game aimed to show employees the impact of their work upon others’ ability to do their own job well.) It proved to be one of the most popular sections of the course and provided some true a-ha moments on the part of the participants. Many of them admitted that they’d never seriously considered the ripple effect of their work on that of their internal customers—and ultimately on the company’s external customers.
In another initiative (this one too aimed at helping employees to recognize their interdependence), we created an Engagement Cycle which tracked a customer engagement from beginning to end and charted the various internal customer needs at each stage. Again the a-ha’s.
Define Customer Service as a Function, Not a Department
How does your organization view customer service—as a department, a specific job role, or as a responsibility shared by every employee?
To help you assess the level of internal customer service in your organization, begin by getting each employee to answer some simple questions:
- Who are your internal customers?
- What do these customers need from you in order to do their jobs well?
- Are you in regular two-way communication with those customers?
- If internal customer satisfaction were measured, how would you rate?
Managers can ask themselves a couple of additional questions:
- How is frustration over internal customer service affecting morale and turnover?
- What does my team need to do to both provide and receive excellent internal customer service?
Teach Them to Be Good Customers
What does a non-profit organization want from its customers? Satisfaction and maybe a bit of appreciation.
Internal customer service works the same way. Employees will be motivated to continue providing good service to coworkers if they’re given appropriate feedback and, at least every once in awhile, sincere thanks for a job well done.
So, tell us! What are you doing to ensure customer service excellence within your organization?