We all know that customer satisfaction is key. No secrets here, right?
Recent McKinsey research shows that more than 160 industry leaders and experts prioritize customer service as an instrument for success and make it a strategic focus for their businesses.
The spotlight often shines on external customers, the audience, whose applause or critique can make or break a performance. In fact, 83% of consumers cite good customer service as the most important factor determining company loyalty.
But what about the often-overlooked internal customers—company employees, owners, or representatives? They are often the unsung heroes, the "internal customers" or employees, who not only perform but also consume the product backstage.
In reality, both these groups of customers equally matter. It's time to shift the focus and recognize the importance of balancing attention between external and internal customers.
By understanding the crucial differences and intersections between these two types, you can foster stronger relationships, enhance customer experiences and service quality, and ultimately drive customer loyalty.
Without further ado, let's begin!
First of all, let’s delve deeper into their distinct roles and functions, shedding light on their unique characteristics and requirements. It will help to dissect the complexity and unveil the nuanced dynamics of external versus internal customers.
External customers stand as the most familiar and iconic face of a business. These end-users or clients, who actively engage with a company's products or services, often hold the company's reputation and success in their hands. Their experience doesn't just influence public perception; it often becomes the decisive factor that charts the company's path to triumph.
Internal customers, whether they are individual employees or entire departments within an organization, consume the efforts of their colleagues, integrating these contributions into their own work. Their role is just as pivotal, forming a vital cog in the machinery of the organization, emphasizing that their significance is in no way lesser than that of their external counterparts.
Imagine a company
as a crowded town. External customers are like tourists who visit the town. They buy souvenirs or enjoy experiences at local attractions. The money they spend helps the town grow and prosper. Internal customers, on the other hand, are like the townsfolk. They live and work there, keeping the town running smoothly day after day. They are the backbone that keeps the town thriving.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, aptly stated, "Internal customer service is just as important as external customer service. If you don't have happy employees, you don't have happy customers."
The functions and roles of external customers are often on the surface—they drive the core revenue for a business. Their unbiased feedback based on their experiences with the company's products or services helps shape product development and customer service strategies.
However, internal customers are also pivotal figures. They provide constructive feedback based on their day-to-day experiences and interactions. Their feedback is invaluable for improving internal processes, enhancing collaboration, and fostering a positive work culture. They also contribute to product development, service delivery, and overall operational efficiency. Just to prove the fact with the statistics—disengaged employees cost companies $3,400 for every $10,000 they make each year.
And, what’s even more important, they shape the output that your external customers consume.
Now, let’s review the building blocks of high customer satisfaction for both groups.
So, remember—the true strength of a company springs from its ability to effectively serve its customers. No matter if these customers are external or internal, understanding their needs and desires and tirelessly working to meet them is the magic formula for long-lasting success and sustainability.
And the secret sauce that propels some organizations to the top lies in having a service mindset. This means eagerly looking out for and reacting to the needs of customers, both inside and outside the organization. This approach doesn't just boost efficiency and productivity. It also creates an environment where respect and collaboration flourish, setting your business on an express elevator to success.