Recently I had a support team manager tell me that she had received feedback from a VP in the operations area of the company where she worked. He told her that he thought that all this “engagement” by her agents in emails and on calls to internal customers and co-workers was unnecessary “fluff”.
She told me that she was very disappointed that he didn’t see the improvements her team had made in their interactions with their internal customers as positive. In fact there had been complaints about some of her team members in the past regarding the negative ways they communicated with other departments and now those complaints were extremely rare.
The support manager said that the VP told her to “save that soft skill stuff for the outside customers”. He wanted agents to turn on their service skills when communicating outside the company and off for inside communications, as if her agents had an on/off switch on their desktop.
I quickly discovered that the Operations VP had never attended any customer experience trainings in this company or elsewhere. He had no first hand knowledge and understanding of how soft skills affected even internal customers and why they are so important. Any wonder that in the past, many of his operations team members had demonstrated poor phone and written communication skills themselves other than being accurate in providing information when asked.
When the operations area employees were asked for feedback about their interactions with agents, they all said that they noticed a big improvement in communications between the departments and were very happy with the changes. In fact some of the operations team said that they were adopting many of the positive sounding word choices and phrases used by the customer service agents in their own communications.
C-Suite teams are continuously looking at ways to reduce costs, improve products and service quality and encourage employees to be innovative.
If internal customers spend the day arguing or defending their turf against other departments in their company, how is the external customer being helped?
How is a company going to have employees engaged in and responsible for the success of the company if internal communications are poor?
Recent studies prove the benefits of having 360 internal and external service quality. Here are some findings and reminders to be successful:
- Superior customer service is directly connected to customer satisfaction, which in turn leads to increased sales and retention of those happy customers. Internal customers need to feel the love too. Their satisfaction on the job, reduced stress from not dealing with rude co-workers or leadership, and truly feeling part of the team makes them want to come to work with a can-do attitude. Turnover is expensive and often is due to the work environment whether dealing a poor manager or negative disengaged co-workers.
- We all have some bad days but some managers make it worse by not helping employees see the internal customer bigger picture. If you think empathy and engagement are a waste of time internally, what message are you sending to your operations teams and their own ability to get along with the rest of the company? Your employees are listening and observing how you interact with your own peers and others in the company.
- Reduced operational costs can be directly tied to having motivated operations and support/service teams work together to solve problems, find efficiency gaps and eliminate duplicate efforts. Being nice to each other when communicating isn’t just a cute teamwork poster for your wall or warm engagement in an email.
- In order to drive continuous improvement efforts for “operational excellence” you need to look at the small things not just the big ones. The language used in emails, the tone of voice, frustrated sighs, unreasonable demands without regard to timeframes made during internal calls need to be addressed by training and coaching with every employee on the skills to “play nicely” with others inside the company and outside.
If you are a General Manager or an Operations VP, make plans to visit your company service and support areas and ask to listen to some calls made by your employees into these areas. How are your operations employees treated? How are they in turn treating the service and support agents?
Start fostering a culture of internal customer experience excellence that will bring your business success. Lead by example!