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Why Internal Customers (should) Matter

We all can recognize and appreciate that our external customers are critical to our business success. But we might not realize the level of importance, or lack thereof, we are putting on our internal customers.

While our external customers are the reason we are able to earn a salary, and have extra revenue to reinvest in our business so it will grow, our internal customers are the people who rely on assistance from others to fulfill their job duties and help to ensure the doors stay open.

Our estimators, for example, rely on our engineers to make sure our customers’ design specifications are accurate, so they can offer customers a fair price for our services. Likewise, an extrusion press operator relies on a host of workers – our die vendors, toolmakers and programmers – to ensure a smooth press operation for the proper extrusion of aluminum components.

In most cases, a disappointed external customer can choose to take their business elsewhere, but an unhappy and frustrated internal customer may not have a choice to fire a coworker and hire another. Lackluster support for internal customers can harm a business by allowing quality or job performance to suffer. On top of this, strained internal relationships can also adversely affect overall company morale.

By teaching employees to think of coworkers in the same manner as external customers and provide the same high level of service, we can take steps to improve internal relations that can lead to a healthier and more productive work environment.

Take for instance the recent equipment upgrade at our MidAmerica Extrusion facility in Indianapolis. While our MidAmerica workers were struggling to get the press running smoothly after the shutdown, several engineering and manufacturing support employees volunteered to travel to Indianapolis to assist in troubleshooting problem areas. Added to this, the transfer of workers to Indianapolis caused a labor shortage in Alexandria. But graciously, workers from other areas and shifts volunteered to do overtime to help fill in the gaps.

In a similar scenario, experiencing extremely rapid growth in production for our solar customer was so big and so fast that the fabrication department was struggling to keep up with the high-volumes, while facing an overall labor shortage. Fortunately, our machine shop team was able to share a few workers for a couple of weeks to help with the high-volume production.

In a positive internal customer service and support best practice environment, all departments work together cooperatively and productively, negotiate expectations
teamwork and agree on processes and procedures. Interdependent business units that work to meet their fellow departmental needs, are more productive, meet goals, and deliver quality products and service to external customers.

Internal customers should matter. By focusing on the value of internal customers, companies can boost morale, increase productivity, cut costs, and more likely achieve their organizational goals. Internal customers who know they are valued, will work to harmonize procedures and processes, replace interdepartmental competition with cooperation and deliver better service to external customers. Everybody wins.