Is customer satisfaction different for internal and external customers? Well, the short answer to that is a resounding yes. But, the thing to consider is that these two concepts are themselves tremendously different, so the fact that the criteria and concerns for satisfaction within these is less of a surprise than you might think it would be. Honestly, I don’t like the term “internal customer” that much. It’s confusing, and doesn’t really accurately represent what it means.
Well, sometimes that’s the case with business science. There’s no standard council of people who unanimously agree on the terms and their meanings, so sometimes you get one like this. So, the first thing I have to do is to abate the confusion around what internal and external customers are, before I can begin to advise you on handling both to satisfactory levels at the same time.
Ok, an external customer is the standard customer you think of, anyone who pays money for use of a service or ownership of merchandise. Of course, you’re all too familiar with the trials and tribulations of keeping them happy.
But, what the heck is an internal customer? Well, it’s any employee within your organization who, in order to do a job, relies on another department’s services. A sales agent who needs to talk to the CRM people is an internal customer. A customer service agent who needs the IT people in order to answer a question or remedy a problem is also an internal customer.
The thing is, keeping these internal customers satisfied is important for both common courtesy to your staff, and also because it ultimately contributes (or takes away from) external customer satisfaction as well.
Well, there are clearly differences here, but let’s actually focus on what the similarities are.
With both internal and external circumstances, speed of responsiveness and resolution is extremely important. Just as a regular customer is going to best be served by problems being addressed and solved in a timely fashion, an internal customer getting the same expediency will themselves be happy.
Not only that, but the faster their needs are met, the faster they can meet the needs of the external customers as well.
Along with this, the same sort of respect and empathy that helps keep external customers satisfied is important for internal ones as well. An employee who gets respect and a positive attitude from those they rely on is going to be happier. If they’re happier and they feel properly respected, their work will reflect this, and they will pass on this same respect and congeniality to the external customer as well.
Finally, just like external customers, internal customers are best served by optimal self service, so that they don’t –have- to rely on other people to do their jobs.
That same “screw it, I’ll handle it myself” opportunity is so convenient. It makes external customers happy if they can skip the middle man, so you can imagine how busy professionals will appreciate not waiting for monkeys in another department to push a button, so that they can do their job.
So, while internal and external customers require different things for overall satisfaction, many things are also similar and causally intertwined in ways we probably never could have expected.