During a corporate stint with a cable television service provider, I happened across a service installer with a not so pleasant look on his face. I inquired as to the source of his displeasure. He passed me his work orders while saying "Read those Errol and tell me what you would do!" After reading the work orders, it became apparent that he would encounter difficulty in determining what services the customer actually ordered. I asked "Okay, so what will you do when you arrive at the customer's home for the installation?" to which he replied "I'll ask the customer what they ordered." That didn't sound quite right so I asked another question "How does that make you feel?" He responded quickly - "It doesn't make me feel too good Errol. I should be verifying what they ordered, not asking!" While it's important to make sure that a purchasing customer is satisfied, it's also important to make sure that our internal customers are satisfied as well. Here are steps that I recommend.
Identify What You Contribute - Get everyone within the organization to identify their product. In other words, what do you create within the organization? Are you able to express your product as a noun? While it's quite easy to do in a manufacturing setting, it's not always considered in the service industries. In the above scenario the product is a work order. A hospitality industry product might be a reservation. In the training industry the product might be a manual. A product in the marketing industry could be a brochure. After identifying your product, let's give it a specific name. Is it a report? What's the name of the report? Perhaps it's a sales report or production report. In the hospitality industry example, the reservation may be more specifically defined as a room reservation. In the scenario above, the product is a work order, but more specifically it's an installation work order. Be specific in naming your product. Doing so helps you to identify your internal customer. What you produce is more than likely utilized by someone within the organization.
Identify Who Utilizes What You Contribute - After everyone puts a name to their contribution; now get them to identify who utilizes their product. To continue the initial scenario, the product was identified as an installation work order. So quite naturally the installation department utilizes this product. If equipment is required for the installation, inventory control and/or the equipment warehouse are probably users of this product. If the manual created within the training industry is a sales manual then the sales department is the likely user for this product. The user of the room reservation might be the check-in clerk or the housekeeping department. Now let's move on to why it's important to know who utilizes your product.
Identify The Requirements of Your Internal Customer - I like to say that providing great internal customer service is like baking a cake - you have to know what ingredients are required for the finished product. While some people can probably bake a cake from memory, most of us would require a recipe to make sure we're including the correct ingredients. Do you know what ingredients are required by the users of your products? The easiest way to find out is to simply ask! In the room reservation scenario, might it be smart to ask the check-in clerk if the reservation contains pertinent information that allows for a timely customer check-in. If that is not the case, then simply inquire as to what ingredients are required in the quest to provide great customer service to the purchasing customer? What about that production report? What information do the users of that product require? In what format? How often? Knowing the answers to questions like these helps one to design a product that fits the needs of their internal customers. Consider that patient appointment - what information does your internal customer require to provide great service to the patient?
Design Your Product According To Your Internal Customer's Requirements - Now that you've identified your internal customer's requirements, design your product to meet their needs. Doing so insures that when your internal customer utilizes your product, they can do so without the need to make changes as this most often creates delays in workflow or decision-making. If your internal customer deals directly with the purchasing customer, a flawed product design may contribute to a less than great customer service experience.
Just as it's important to design products and services to meet the needs of your purchasing customer, it's just as important to do the same for your internal customer. You can accomplish this by Identifying What You Contribute, Identifying Your Internal Customer, Identifying the Requirements of Your Internal Customer and by Designing Your Product According To Your Internal Customer's Requirements.