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ARTICLESManagement & Service

LOOK!! CUSTOMERS ARE ALL AROUND YOU

Very often we see a vast difference between frontline staff and their backup colleagues while perceiving a customer. The reason is fairly obvious. Front line face customers while back up play support function. They do not encounter customers.

Frontline wants everything yesterday, backup says “sure but I need time”. Frontline gets all excited and stressed; back up may get away with an excuse. Frontline would have to apologize profusely to the customer while back up is still wondering as to “what went wrong”.

 

EXTERNAL CUSTOMERS

Normally a customer is one who approaches you to purchase a product or service. He pays for it and in turn expects satisfaction. Take good care of him and he will ensure your growth and success. Displease him and you run the risk of losing him. In short, if you have customers - you are in business. These customers are EXTERNAL CUSTOMERS. 

However from the stage of enquiry to collecting payments, lies a long chain of activities such as approval of design, pricing, contract confirmation, booking the order, manufacturing, packing, dispatching, delivering, installing, invoicing. Every employee in the company has an equal responsibility in ensuring that the chain of activities is running smoothly.

If teamwork is the secret to customer satisfaction, then back up staff also need to look around and identify their customers.

INTERNAL CUSTOMERS

In an organization, someone in the chain uses the output of an individual or a department’s activity. The recipient of that output is an INTERNAL CUSTOMER. If we have to satisfy the end user we cannot ignore the intermediate links in the chain. One must hence respond to the internal customer as they would to an external customer or end user.

Internal customers could be anyone in the organization. They could be your peers, boss or subordinates all waiting for some requirement to be met. Selling is not required for this relationship. Though they do not pay and expect service, they all play a very important role in the satisfaction of the end user - your external customer.

SUPPORT CHAIN

Departments handling packaging, warehousing, transportation, would all have their internal customer in “distribution” that puts the various activities together for his internal customer the “sales-coordinator”. Simultaneously “pricing” feeds price information to the sales coordinator. He now compiles all this information and forwards to his internal customer the “sales manager” who finally presents it to the external customer or end user.

In turn an external customers satisfaction stems from an excellent offer by the sales manager, which is due to good outputs compiled by the coordinator that was due to the efforts from distribution and pricing. Distribution owes their outputs to efficient support from packaging, warehousing, transportation.

 
 

Frontlines performance is a direct reflection of support services in any organization. Frontline can meet and match customer expectations only if they get appropriate support from back up. This would entail imparting similar training to back up staff in customer service skills as given to frontline employees as, this helps in strengthening the entire chain of activities and ensuring satisfaction to an external customer. “A CHAIN IS AS STRONG AS ITS WEAKEST LINK”.

CUSTOMERS EVERYWHERE

There is no escape from internal customers, for, employees under the notion that they are not remotely connected to the chain of activities need to review and identify their internal customer. Their lack of prompt action could jeopardize satisfaction to an external customer.

Bob had applied for a loan to purchase a new car on a special price. His department manager unfortunately misplaced his application. On locating, he approved and sent it to the finance department. While the loan was important to Bob, the finance manager was busy with month end closing and hence delayed in reviewing his application. This resulted in further delay. In the meantime the promotion was coming to a close. The delay in approval made Bob very anxious and stressed. His focus shifted from his customers and work, to the loan. This obviously affected his performance. While the loan itself had nothing to do with the external customer the delay in processing it, by both, his department and finance manager directly reflected on Bob’s output. It disturbed the chain of activities and indirectly harmed the organization. Had the loan been sanctioned as scheduled, he would comfortably have finished purchasing his car and focused on his work and customers.

The entire process of satisfaction is possible only when employees identify the person going to use their output - the internal customer and make sure that right support and service is extended to them, who in turn ensure satisfaction to the external customer.

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