It is not new news that adversarial relationships abound in organizations where internal customers are feeling grossly under-served by their Shared Services teams, aka their internal service providers. The reality is that in dysfunctional cultures, internal service providers:
- Believe that their jobs are so secure that there is no compelling reason to embrace a customer-centric attitude.
- Either never acquired the ability or lost the ability to figuratively walk in their customers’ shoes, experiencing exactly what it feels like when their internal customers don’t have what they need, when they need it, to effectively service their customers — the end consumer.
In a customer-comprised environment, the tone is typically set by the highest levels of Shared Services leadership who are so far removed from front line customer interactions that they lose touch with what’s truly important. They begin to view their customers as metrics, workload demand and complaints versus human beings who want to do a great job. In order to justify their ways, dysfunctional Shared Services leaders typically provide all sorts of reasons as to why their customers are uniquely difficult. Contrast that with high performing leaders who build high performing consultative teams that focus on customer service improvements vs. poor service excuses.
What’s interesting about adopting a customer-centric attitude is that it costs $0 to demonstrate the accompanying customer-centric behaviors. This is not about “I must act on my customer’s big idea by implementing a mega-million dollar software solution.” This is about creating a consulting mindset where employees must earn their customers’ business. What organizations and employees fail to realize is that if they aren’t treating their internal customers as customers, someone else will, and that’s when the dreaded “end-arounds” typically occur. While internal customers generally can’t terminate the Shared Services teams, they can hire and contract resources plus engage third party consultants in an attempt to work-around the Shared Services teams’ shortfalls. Of course that doesn’t go over too well with the Shared Services teams nor does it promote organizational efficiencies, yet it happens on a fairly frequent basis.
So how does an organization go about creating a consulting mindset where customers know that they are truly valued? The first step is to establish the expectation at the Shared Services leadership level — we are here to earn our internal customers’ business — anything less is unacceptable. The next step is to identify the enabling customer-centric behaviors. The third step is to provide meaningful, outcomes-driven professional development to rewire misguided behaviors. The fourth step is to measure the Shared Services teams against those behaviors and the fifth step is to identify and mitigate the gaps.
Here’s a short quiz for those of you who are wondering if you are truly earning your customers’ business by doing everything possible attitude and behavior-wise. As you’re answering each question, please be honest with yourself. Do you:
- Actively listen to your customers?
- Speak to your customers in their language vs. your own?
- Convey a positive attitude when engaging your customers?
- Understand your customers’ business plus needs and goals?
- Anticipate your customers’ concerns?
- Proactively seek out opportunities to position your customers for success?
- Remain mindful that your customers are the stars?
- Develop genuine and enduring relationships with your customers?
- Value each and every customer interaction?
- Celebrate your customers’ accomplishments?
- Feel your customers’ pain?
- Keep your customers fully informed?
- Maintain your customers’ confidences?
- Serve as your customers’ trusted advisor?
- Challenge your customers’ thinking in a respectful manner?
- Place your customers’ interests ahead of your own interests?
- Identify ways to make your customers’ jobs easier?
- Effectively manage your customers’ expectations?
- Offer your customers viable options, solutions and advice?
- Uphold your customer commitments?
- Deliver quality work to your customers?
- Engage in critical conversations with your customers if they’re heading down a path that could result in negative outcomes?
- Convey bad news to your customers in an empathetic manner?
- Recognize that your customers are the business decision makers, and as such, if a decision is made that you may not agree with, you don’t become emotionally distraught or resentful?
- Enjoy partnering with and truly care about your customers?
The purpose of the quiz isn’t to suggest that organizations should create 25-question internal customer surveys, but rather to raise awareness plus demonstrate that the cost of adopting and conveying a consulting mindset is nil. As internal service providers, we owe it to our internal customers to let them know, with each interaction, how important and valued they are and that we, as service providers, recognize we must earn their business.