Most People Don’t Get That They Have Internal Customers


I don’t think that most people get that there are only two functions in a company. You’re either serving customers, or you’re serving someone who serves customers. There aren’t any other roles in business, as far as I’m concerned. I want to talk to you about how to fulfill your responsibility of serving, particularly when it comes to your co-workers – your internal customers.

The Importance of Follow-up

I love me some basketball. (#Thunderup) Follow-up is like an alley-oop on the court. An alley-oop in basketball is an offensive play in which one player throws the ball near the basket to a teammate who jumps, catches the ball in mid-air and puts it in the hoop before touching the ground.

If a co-worker reaches out to you for research or response (that is, throws you the ball near the customer’s point of need), you need to run with the task (with a sense of urgency) and put the ball in the bucket. Meaning, you make that call, do the research, or whatever, and you close the loop by letting your colleague know you’ve followed through.

It’s Bigger Than You

I do an exercise in my workshops using a 12-foot pole. I instruct attendees to lower the pole to the ground. I make things interesting by explaining that the pole can’t lose contact with people’s index fingers and that they can’t use gravity to pull the pole down.

People find this exercise hard. What makes it difficult is everybody’s focused just on their small section of the pole.

But, they figure out that to lower the pole, they have to pay attention to everyone else. They have to talk to each other and work together. It’ll never work if they just focus on their section.

Yes, checking off the boxes on your task list is essential. But a vast part of your job is serving others so they can help other customers – your customers. Look up from your own world and be of service to those around you.

Talk to People (Literally, speak – outside of text and email)

I grew up with the unspoken expectation that I was to always speak to other black people in public, whether I knew them or not. It’s a respect thing. It’s a beautiful acknowledgment of kinship. So, in airports, grocery stores, and social events, I still always smile or speak to my brothers and sisters.

Times have changed, and not all blacks follow the “speak code,” but I still do it. And my son would tell you that I’m overly friendly, speaking or smiling to just about every human I pass on the streets, regardless of color. This annoys him.

The “speak code” is a good practice. When you pass your co-workers in the hall, or you walk by a cubicle, take a second to smile. And sometimes, stop and chat. We build and strengthen relationships through smiles and conversations.

Back to Basketball

The alley-oop combines elements of teamwork, pinpoint passing, timing, and finishing. That’s the essence of good internal customer service. Work together. Follow-up and follow through. And build a strong team by taking the time to seek out contact now and then. The result is better internal relations and the big finish is a great experience for your external customers.

Now you can give your employees even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches, and phrases to help your employees help your customers.