Nielsen: Internal Customer Service

One of the most successful business writers of our time recently wrote these words:

  • “Some of the worst customer service can occur internally – within an organization itself. In many companies, if you call another department you think you’re talking to an adversary. This can happen not only at work, but also at home. The sad reality is that most people treat folks they work with or love worse than they treat customers or total strangers.”


The sad reality is that Ken Blanchard, the author of numerous best selling books is absolutely correct. “The sad reality is that most people treat folks they work with or love worse than they treat customers or total strangers.” If you doubt Blanchard’s bold statement, take a fresh look at divorce rates, the high percentage of estranged immediate and extended family relationships, and the overall low satisfaction of employees with their work environment, co-workers and supervisors.  

Unfortunately, I have witnessed this kind of behavior numerous times over the course of my career. If you have been around long, and if you are even slightly observant, you have also witnessed this kind of unacceptable behavior.

The fact is, whether we are willing to accept it or not, this kind of behavior happens in most organizations, including most provider and supplier healthcare organizations, multiple times on a daily basis.  And, in some organizations, seemly on a minute by minute basis.

Our emphasis on customer service and patient satisfaction is wise, prudent and should continue. However, allowing people to treat internal customers… fellow employees and team members in a different fashion is unwise and anything but professional. In particular, allowing any supervisor or leader, regardless of level, position, expertise or importance, to treat internal customers differently than external customers is flat out wrong, inexcusable and an open invitation for trouble down the line.

Internal customer service is far too important to address once a year or whenever a problem surfaces. It is also far too important to simply include in the policy manual and go on with business.

This topic can and should be addressed at all levels throughout the organization on an ongoing basis. This is a perfect topic for an upbeat, positive and energizing discussion within each and every team and within each and every level of the organization. Make it fun. Make it positive. Make it exciting. Make it energizing. Make it entertaining. Enthusiastically reinforce the many benefits.

This topic is also an excellent opportunity to publicly recognize those individuals within your organization who exemplify excellence in internal customer service. Make stars out of you internal customer service stars! Others are sure to follow!  

It is not just about customer service or patient satisfaction! It is also about internal customer service and satisfaction. In fact, I believe internal is more important and comes first!

Copyright © 2011 by Dan Nielsen

Founder, National Institute for Healthcare Leadership

Cell 214-695-1292

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