The Top 7 Internal Customer Experience Techniques Leaders Use To Keep People Engaged

So, what exactly is

Internal customer service?

Internal customer service is the experience that employees/departments within an organization provide to other employees/departments/vendors when providing assistance to complete a task. The premise is that the “customer” is the team member who needs help, and the “customer service provider” is the team member who provides that help.

According to studies, superior internal customer service leads to higher employee engagement and satisfaction, which leads to a slew of other benefits. Employee retention, productivity, and profitability all rise, and, best of all, employees get motivated to extend exceptional external customer service.

Obviously then, as a progressive leader, you support all company internal customer experience workshop initiatives. Hey, you might have even led a few workshops on the topic!

But here’s the rub

Do you walk the talk yourself?

Do you consciously engage with your team members the way you expect them to treat customers? Are you mindful of the internal customer experience in your routine interactions with the team? Do you practice extending outstanding internal customer service to your employees daily, consistently? It matters.

If you focus on providing a superior customer experience for your team members and can create a space where people feel safe and are treated with respect, care, and recognition, you will notice that motivation will skyrocket, productivity will increase, and most importantly, the customer experience your company provides to both internal and external customers will improve.

Here are seven simple, actionable steps you can take right away to strengthen internal customer relationships and foster an environment that promotes employee productivity and engagement.

“A survey conducted by Gallup found that employees who feel they can approach their manager are more likely to be engaged.”

Be Present

You would always make yourself available to your clients, do the same for your employees. Make a conscious effort to be mindfully present in your interactions with team members. Internal chatter, nagging issues, mental preoccupation – banish the distractions. 

Create an environment where your team members feel safe enough to raise their concerns. You don’t have to step in to solve their issues necessarily. Often, by just hearing them, you can provide them the space they need to process problems. Your support will give them the confidence to handle challenges themselves.

“A survey conducted by Gallup found that employees who feel they can approach their manager are more likely to be engaged.”

Given the current reality of remote working and social distancing, the positive presence of a leader becomes even more vital. So set up meetings, receive calls, zoom – establish connect. 

And NO, you cannot be scrolling through your emails in that virtual meeting.

Use The Right Currency to Buy Engagement

Harvard Business Review notes that external motivators- such as salary boosts and bonuses- do little to motivate employees. Instead, intrinsic motivators- such as praise, recognition, and morale-boosting – play a far more significant role in creating an engaging environment. When managers appreciate their contribution, their engagement increases by 60%.

The takeaway – appreciation is the currency you need to buy engagement.

Providing your team members positive reinforcement needs to become a routine practice. A quick “job well done”, a special mention, and positive feedback, provided publicly or personally, can make a world of difference to motivation.

So, set a schedule. Ensure that you take the time out to acknowledge and appreciate team members’ efforts genuinely, on an ongoing basis

Forget the Stick;the Carrot is Much More Effective

Everybody loves gifts. And when the gift comes from you, the leader, directly, it holds immense value. The gift represents an acknowledgement of your appreciation. It is an indicator that you treat your team members, your internal customers, with kindness and respect.

Here are some quick gift ideas that you can use to woo your teammates without breaking the bank:

  • Take the team out for dinner or lunch once a month just as a gesture of team spirit.
  • As a manager, if you receive a gift from a vendor, share it with your team.
  • Offer unexpected theater tickets or restaurant gift certificates for those with few or no sick days.
  • Host a company “play day” at a local park. 
  • Have dinner delivered to the team while you share a meal over a video call or host an online cocktail hour for those remote working days.

Multiple possibilities, long-lasting results.

Ask For Feedback

Just as you would ask for feedback from and follow up with external customers, do the same with your internal customers. 

You will benefit in two ways. Your employees’ feedback will help you gain a better perspective on how you handled a situation, how you are perceived and ultimately improve performance. Furthermore, soliciting feedback will leave an indelible impression on your employees. It shows vulnerability and humility. And your team will feel closer to you.

Connect Your Team With the Big Picture

Communicate to your team the company’s vision, goals, and work culture. Assist them in connecting the dots. They must understand how their actions fit into the larger picture, the company’s direction, and they must be able to align their personal goals and interests with organizational goals. It will foster a sense of belonging. This, in turn, can help to foster an environment of respect and engagement.

Get Personal, Professionally

Good leaders care about the people they lead and demonstrate involvement. Make an effort to create a personal and meaningful connection with your team members. Reach out. Be approachable yourself. Naturally, professional boundaries have to be maintained. However, you can and should look to have conversations beyond work-related topics.

Some quick suggestions to forge better relationships with your team members;

  • Remember important details of your employees’ non-work lives- birthdays, anniversary dates, names of family members, pets …
  • Have non-work conversations. Ask them about how they are feeling and what are their interests outside of work. Share anecdotes from your own life.
  • Initiate the first move. Because you are the boss, team members may be hesitant to approach you on a personal level. However, if you take the initiative, the barrier will be removed.

Establishing a personal connection has become even more imperative in the post-pandemic world as isolation has created a cleavage between team workers and leaders.

A Simple Thank You Goes A Long Way  

Can you imagine a transaction with an external customer where ‘thank you is never said? You simply wouldn’t tolerate that. Right?

Are you equally meticulous in your interactions with your team members? So, when a project is finished… when a report is completed… at every opportunity, say thank you.

Respect begets respect, and the attitude you bring to the table colors the tone for the entire enterprise.

Internal Customer Service Effort

The Benefit Case

While the internal customer service effort you extend to your team members may take additional time and effort, I promise you the investment will be well worth it. You will soon find yourself surrounded by team members who are willing – and, yes, even excited – to work with you.

change management

About the author:

Carole Nicolaides, MBA is the CEO of Progressive Leadership Inc. and has over 20 years business experience in the areas of organizational change management, organizational effectiveness, program management and leadership development. She held senior roles in the information technology, financial services, communications, government agencies and healthcare industries. Carole’s pragmatic, fluff-free and grounded perspective on leadership prepares management and their teams actively to lead the change. Contact us today to learn more about how you can create a culture that supports your changing initiatives.

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