Christine Mclean July 18, 2023

Internal Customer Service: What It Is, Why It’s Important, & How to Do It Effectively

Employee Training

In a report published by Khoros, it was discovered that 38% of businesses underestimate how often customers have poor experiences. Oftentimes, unaddressed issues are the causes of these poor experiences and result in customers going to your competitors for the solutions they need. So, it’s not surprising that at least 83% of customers are more loyal to brands that respond to and resolve their complaints, according to the same Khoros study.

Effectively addressing customer complaints requires more than a surface-level approach to customer service. There must be efficient internal processes and systems that allow teams to work together to address the root causes of customer issues. Otherwise, there will be a continuous cycle of customers complaining and issues resurfacing, which ultimately creates a negative customer experience.

Internal customer service helps create the necessary internal processes and systems for effective team collaboration. In this article, we’re looking closely at the definition of internal customer service, why it’s important, and how you can use a five-step process to do it effectively.

What is Internal Customer Service?

Internal customer service refers to the support teams provide each other to create the best possible customer experience. Customers often don’t see what happens during the internal customer service process because a lot of the work occurs behind the scenes. For instance, the finance department providing the budgetary support the IT team needs to build a customer support app is an example of internal customer service.

Why is Internal Customer Service Important?

Internal customer service is important for three important reasons:

  • Employee productivity increases: Your teams will be more productive when they get the support and resources they need to function effectively.

  • External customer service improves: Internal customer service results in root causes of issues being resolved and customers getting more of what they need from your product or service. There will be fewer customer complaints and greater consideration given to the features your customers are requesting.

  • Greater employee morale: Internal customer service helps create an environment of collaboration and communication, thus improving employee morale.

How Can Internal Customer Service Training Be Done Effectively? 

The following steps for effective internal customer service training are based on insights from Director of Business Transformation at the Jamaica Public Service, Gina Tomlinson Williams. She also shares tips for making company-wide customer service training effective in a podcast episode you can listen to by clicking the link below.

 1. Ensure There’s Budget for the Program

Gina recommends hosting in-person workshops for internal customer service training to ensure increased participation and engagement. But this doesn’t mean online training shouldn’t be considered. In fact, a hybrid approach to training where in-person and online training are combined is good for capturing attention, reinforcing concepts, increasing engagement, and tracking progress.

But there are costs associated with hybrid employee training such as trainer fees, venue charges, learning management system costs, and other miscellaneous fees (food costs for in-person training etc.). You need to clearly identify all the costs associated with your internal customer service program so that you can get the financial support you need.

2. Create Awareness and Establish a “Why” for Employees 

All employees should participate in internal customer service training, but the depth of training required for each employee will differ based on roles. For instance, employees who don’t regularly interact with customers will need sensitisation training which can be approached in multiple ways.

One approach is facilitating a one-hour sensitisation workshop followed by short sensitisation videos and learning material hosted on your learning management system. This approach helps minimise the time needed for training and gives your team the autonomy to learn on-demand. All team members should also receive monthly tips and reminders so they don’t forget that internal customer service is an ongoing process.

Getting buy-in from employees who aren’t customer-facing is also easier when there is clear support from the CEO and head of customer service. Get each of these C-Suite execs to create video messages when you’re kicking off your internal customer service program. This message should include their reasons for supporting the program and the support they’re expecting from the team to make it successful.

Customer-facing staff will also benefit from sensitisation training, but they will also need detailed customer service training that focuses on the core customer service issues your company faces. In-person workshops that include role-playing and scenario-based learning activities are good to include in this training. But the training should also include mentorship and online customer service training courses.

Recognition is also important for getting more employees to appreciate the “why” behind your internal customer service training program. Recognising star employees who are positively impacting internal customer service is a great way to improve productivity, increase satisfaction, and keep your team engaged. A study by WorkHuman found that employee recognition results in employees being 44% more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, 73% of employees feeling more productive, and employees being 4x more engaged.

3. Establish Internal Service-led Agreements Between Departments  

An internal service-led agreement (SLA) defines the level of service that’s expected from each department. For example, there can be an SLA between your finance department and other departments regarding communication about when payments have been made. The finance department can commit to communicating within 24 hours of when a purchase has been completed.

This means that when IT needs to purchase a server that will create a more secure online experience for customers, the IT manager will know within a reasonable timeframe when the server has been purchased. This prevents the IT manager from having to continuously follow up with the finance department to get updates about payment.

SLAs aim to streamline internal processes so that teams can better support each other. When creating internal SLAs, focus on three or four major internal processes because documenting everything will become tedious and burdensome. Documenting SLAs makes it easier to use internal surveys to track how well your team is doing with internal customer service.

It’s also important to communicate how well each team is doing. Use the results from the internal surveys to give each department feedback on their performance. Recognise top performers and provide additional training and coaching for low performers.

4. Make Internal Customer Service Training a Requirement for New Recruits 

Internal customer service will become part of your workplace culture. That’s one of the reasons internal customer service training should be part of your employee onboarding program. Some companies require all new hires to spend a week on the customer service team as part of their onboarding process. But this isn’t a strategy that can work for all companies.

All new hires should participate in internal customer service sensitisation training during their onboarding process. This sensitisation should include engaging with company-specific resources on your learning management system, peer mentorship, and on-the-job training.

5. Conduct an Annual Review of  Your Internal Customer Service Program

You need to give your internal customer service training program time to work. A quarterly assessment would be too frequent. An annual review is more practical. But it’s still important to actively review and respond to feedback about your internal customer service training program throughout the year.

Some key questions to ask during this annual review include:

  • Are your teams working better together?

  • How is your internal customer service impacting your external customer service?

  • What needs to be tweaked? 

Make Internal Customer Service an Integral Part of Your Organisation 

Internal customer service shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be intricately woven into your workplace culture. When teams use internal customer service to work together, employees and customers are happier.

Let One on One’s learning management system help you deliver the training needed for your internal customer service program. Use our LMS to give your team access to your training resources, provide micro-learning opportunities to your team with our library of over 1,000 ready-made customer service courses, and get the data and analytics you need to assess the success of your internal customer service training program. Learn more about the benefits of the customer service training courses we provide.