The Customer Service Experience: Understanding and Effectively Managing the Needs of Internal and External Customers

July 2, 2020

The Customer Service Experience

It goes without saying that we have all experienced a countless number of customer service exposures in our lives. Whether we are the recipient or the one providing the service, it seems the need for help is never ending. If you’ve ever called a restaurant to make a dinner reservation, been to the grocery store or other retailer, or ordered anything online, chances are you have needed some form of customer service to complete the task. Each exposure brings a distinct situation with its own set of circumstances and role players; therefore, the degree of effectiveness of each exposure varies from one exposure to the next. Think about a recent customer service experience, as pleasant or as painful as that may be. How did you feel at the end of the experience? Did it make you feel valued as a customer, or did you walk away from it frustrated and ready to disparage the organization on every social media platform you could find?

Customer service is not a bizarre phenomenon that occurs only when going through the drive-through to pick up food or when you call to check the status of an order you made with a retailer. Customer service is a vital, collaborative initiative that happens on many levels in all organizations and, if managed properly, can result in an abundance of customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is created through positive acts an organization takes to handle the needs of its customers. Many times, customer loyalty determines whether the company can remain open or must close the doors. When referring to the customer experience and customer loyalty, Ameritas provides these compelling statistics:

  • 97% of customers will tell others about an excellent customer service experience;
  • 24% will return as repeat customers because of the service they received; and
  • 59% of customers will seek other options – just to receive better customer service.

(Ameritas, “Why Good Customer Service Is Important,”

Why Customer Service Matters 

Customer service is the idea of making new and existing customers feel valued, appreciated, and respected through interactions that are executed with fairness, dignity, and sincerity. Why does this matter? It matters because your organization is in direct competition for customer loyalty and revenue. Sally Gronow, Welsh Water’s Head of Customer Service, believes that “[g]ood customer service costs less than bad customer service.” (LinkedIn, “The 7 C’s of Customer Service,” Research from Ameritas indicates she is correct. Acquiring new customers costs employers at least 5 times more than retaining existing (satisfied) customers and there is a 60% to 70% chance that goods or services will be purchased by existing customers versus newly acquired customers. (Ameritas, “Why Good Customer Service Is Important,” When customers are treated with respect and dignity, they come back time and time again. Exceptional customer service is a mindset and is derivative of a positive work culture that is championed by management at all levels of the organization.

The Importance of Customer Service

In addition to understanding what customer service is and why it matters, it is equally important to know who we serve. Internal and external customers each have their own unique set of expectations and desired outcomes. Having a basic understanding of the needs of both is essential to providing the type of assistance that each requires and deserves.

Internal customers have a direct company relationship with you; however, they may or may not purchase the product(s) or service(s) the company offers. Examples of internal customers include:  co-workers in other departments, shareholders, and other partners that support the company’s end users. They are important because they serve as collaborative partners that work for the greater good of the organization. As the saying goes, there is no “I” in T-E-A-M.

On the other hand, external customers (i.e., “clients”) do not have a direct company relationship with you. Their main objective is to obtain your product(s) or service(s) and they can be repeat or one-time customers, depending of course on the type of service they receive.  The external customers are more critical than internal customers because they generate revenue for the organization. Additionally, a loyal customer can serve as a great business endorsement, which can result in the acquisition of new customers.

Instilling Exceptional Customer Service

We have all experienced bad service and one thing stands true:  we might tell one person about a good experience, but we will definitely tell the whole world about a bad one. To build and strengthen the customer service experience, and to avoid falling into this pitfall, below are a few ways organizations can instill and support exceptional customer service with every customer interaction:

  • Develop customer service policies and procedures: Policies and procedures that outline every aspect of the customer service experience are critical. Make it your priority to understand all aspects from the customer’s perspective and be able to handle each of those scenarios. Develop a plan and a back-up plan to the plan – execute it and be on the lookout for ways to improve on your processes as you go.
  • Hire the right folks: Hiring the right candidate for a customer service position is as important as the policies and procedures that support it. When hiring for any customer service position, ask the right questions to make sure candidates understand the importance of customer service and that they have the same philosophy about customers as the company does. Remember, they will be on the front line – you want the best possible people handling those situations.
  • Provide customer service training: Providing training to employees on company policies and soft skills such as courtesy, patience, and communication will benefit you as an employer tremendously. Properly training staff not only provides them with the tools and confidence they need to succeed in their roles as customer service representatives, it also gives employers the advantage of having staff who are capable of handling situations with limited supervision.     
  • Obtain feedback from customers: They say the customer is always right, right? No matter what business you are in, there is always room for improvement. Don’t be afraid to solicit feedback from customers about their service experience(s). The key here:  listen and use the information you gather to improve the organization’s policies, procedures, and plans – your customers will thank you later for listening to them!

When organizations place an emphasis on providing top-notch customer service by providing specific guidelines and training to support those efforts, they stand a better chance of getting new customers, as well as keeping the existing ones. By taking the time to properly screen candidates and hire the right people for the job, organizations automatically set themselves (and their employees) up for success. Having the patience to hear what customers are saying and having the nerve to do something about it demonstrate that the organization is willing to walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to keeping customers happy and staying competitive.

Could you use some help training your employees to provide excellent customer service, both internally and externally? Foundations HR can help. Our consultants have the practical experience to set up organizations for customer service success.  Contact us and let us show you how we can assist.

–Allison Catron, Office Coordinator

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