Theories in Customer Service: Internal vs. External Customers

We often hear the term “customer,” but who truly is defined as a customer? Simply put, everyone is. Whether we realize it or not, we all have customers and we’re all somebody else’s customer. Customers can be categorized as both internal and external, and as employees of an organization we actually have both. Each one needs to be treated equally and with the same amount of care and respect.

So, what are the differences between internal and external customers? Internal customers are our co-workers such as the person in the cubicle next to you, your team manager, Human Resources, the sales representatives who bring in new clients, or even the janitor who cleans the building. External customers are our clients. These are the people, businesses and organizations outside of the company who buy products from us, give us their business or pay us for the services that we provide. The business of securing external customers drives revenue and is essential to the success and survival of an organization.

The natural tendency for any company is to pay more attention to and focus on external customers, consequently placing less importance on internal customers. As we know, it is very important to satisfy external customers. Content external customers will remain loyal to the company longer, make repeat purchases, and will refer the company to others. Conversely, an external customer who suffers through a negative experience with the company, such as being treated rudely by an employee, can harm an organization by discouraging others from patronizing it. With the advent of social media, negative comments and reviews can be devastating to an organization.

But what happens if part of a negative customer experience was the result of poor internal customer service? What if one of our employees was, for some reason unhappy on any given day and that unhappiness was deflected onto the customer by way of poor service? In my opinion, there is definitely a direct correlation between internal employee happiness and a positive external customer experience. In order to produce happy external customers (those who buy our products and services,) it is important to build good customer satisfaction and rapport with our internal customers. Everyone uses the analogy about how a chain is only as strong as its’ weakest link. Well, the same applies here. Having weak links only hurts the organization.

There is a domino effect between internal customer relations and external customer satisfaction. In order to produce happy external customers (those who buy our products and services), it is important to build positive customer satisfaction with our internal customers. This can be linked to a chain. Each link contributes to the overall strength of the chain and, when there is a broken or weak link, the whole organization is weakened. As they say, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

By striving to improve internal customer relations, an organization can build a healthier and more satisfying work environment and avoid potentially negative experiences for our external customers. A good way to improve internal relations and employee contentment is by getting employees to think of themselves and their co-workers in the same manner as they do their external customers — as very important. We all need to provide our internal customers (employees and co-workers) with the same high level of service that we give our clients, and make sure the staff feels they are important and bring value. If employees feel good about themselves and feel that they are important and add value to the company, they will have better attitudes and performance will increase. Henry Ford once said “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”

As the Customer Experience Manager at BlueRock Energy, it has been my top priority to build positive morale and a strong sense of employee contentment within my team. I continually strive to provide them with an overall sense of empowerment and well-being. I have seen this circle back time and time again with the way they accommodate and interact with our external customers. Our 97% customer satisfaction rate speaks for itself. We have satisfied customers because we address any questions, comments, concerns, and most importantly – we give them options that they didn’t know were possible. We are able to lock in our customer’s energy rates into a fixed-rate plan. This ensures that you receive a consistently low rate over a 12-month period and provides you protection against rate spikes in a volatile market.

BlueRock is a community focused company with a strong commitment to building lasting relationships with both our internal and external customers. This is directly reflective of why our retention rates are so high.

To learn more about how you can avoid rate spikes with a fixed plan, click here.

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