InsideOut Online

Highlighting the Houston District

DM Message


From the September/October issue of Houston InsideOut

As of October 1, 2012, we began Fiscal Year 2013. In this fiscal year, I want our full attention on customer service. As I have said before, customer service will always be a reflection of the service we provide for the cost they incur. To provide exceptional customer service, we must focus internally. We must pay attention to the impact that poor customer service within our own walls has on our external customer. It all starts with us. If we are dysfunctional internally, it will extend to our external customer. To reach world class, we must focus on how we interact, respond, and hand off to each other. We must be cognizant of the need for passion for servicing our internal customer, matching the passion we have for servicing our external customer.

When we think of customer service we think of our employees serving customers 1) through delivery of their products, 2) over a counter, or 3) over the phone. But customer service occurs within our organization as well. How well do our employees serve each other: other departments, management, craft employees, contract employees, etc.? Believe it or not, it all counts. Internal customer service refers to service directed to others within our organization. It refers to our level of responsiveness, quality, communication, teamwork and morale.

Greg Harrison, motivational speaker and author, defines Internal Customer Service as “effectively serving other departments within your organization. How well are you providing other departments with service, products or information to help them do their jobs? How well are you listening to and understanding their concerns? How well are you solving problems for each other to help your organization succeed?”

Teaming with Success

How well do we work with other teams in the District? Does our Marketing department communicate well with the Operations team? Does Processing and Distribution team relate well with our Delivery team? Do Finance and Customer Services work well together? When it is time to communicate with others from different departments, do you take a deep breath, or smile and relish a chance to renew contact with colleagues from another department in our District? Do we bark at each other or do we sit and work it out?

Greg states “As a manager I once joined a publishing company and found myself in the midst of a war between departments. Production resented Editorial for the way they missed deadlines and delivered shoddy copies. Conversely, Editorial had little respect for the resulting manuscripts they received back from Production, full of errors and oversights. Poor teamwork, poor communication and myopic thinking had led to a hardening of positions over time. They each cared about the finished product, but were putting pressure on each other without realizing it. Over time, both groups came to appreciate each other and how to best work together to achieve win-wins for the greater good of their customers.”

Do we relish or dread working with other departments? Would we rather hide from the information they can provide about our service to them? Do we see their goals and objectives as being different than ours? When other departments contact you for help do you regard it as a nuisance, a distraction and a waste of your time? Do we see cross-functional teams form naturally or are they formed at the direction of senior management? Are we able to see the greater good that comes from helping them solve their problems, which are sometimes caused by our own department?

We must take pride in opportunities to help other teams look good. Obviously, you don’t want their success to come at your expense. Focusing on 1) improving the process, 2) the assignment of responsibility, and 3) communication, will generally save your team, and the District, more than you spend. Usually helping others is not a win/lose scenario, where only one of you can win and helping others hurts you. In most cases, helping other internal teams leads to a win-win situation. And what goes around usually comes around. Helping other internal teams succeed can help yours too when the roles are reversed. 

Up with People

Good internal customer service starts with good morale within our District. Are our people happy? Do we feel good about ourselves and our contributions to the goals of our units? Do we feel good about the success of the District? We should, and an effort should be made to make that happen. Good employee morale is evident to our internal and external customers. Employees with good morale are better team players on their team and cross-functional teams. Will you eat at a restaurant where the employees are disgruntled? Who cooks the food? Will you fly an airline where the mechanics are on strike? I, personally, want to feel that the guy who fixed the engine feels pretty good that day. When our employees care about the success of our District, due to their having a clear understanding of their role, being kept abreast of their contribution, and being recognized for success, they will always perform at high levels. They will understand and appreciate they are a part of a winning team and their success is intertwined with the overall success of the District. People dream of success in their lives. We, as a District, must become dream-makers.

Greg goes on to say “When I fly out of Oakland International Airport, I use an outlying parking lot and shuttle van. This shuttle is shared by employees from Southwest Airlines, coming to work or returning to their cars after their Shifts. They are as happy and upbeat when starting their shifts as when they’re finishing shifts. That’s great morale, and tells me they like their jobs. It’s contagious! Sometimes I’m envious on that shuttle when I know I’ll be checking in at another airline’s ticket counter.”

Who’s On Top?

Many organizational charts will sometimes display the external customer on top. We always say our most important asset is our employees, which puts our employees on top. In many senses, the employees are management’s customers. Does the Houston District value its employees? Does it show? It must be evident to our employees we value them. That is ALL employees, management and craft. It is obvious companies that care about their people can better ask their people to care about their customers.

Catering to Customer Service Needs

Here are five tips Greg provides for our organization to help strengthen its internal customer service orientation.

1. Employees should never complain within earshot of customers. It gives them the impression your company isn’t well run, shaking their confidence in you.

2. Employees should never complain to customers about other department’s employees. Who wants to patronize a company whose people don’t get along with each other?

3. Employees at every level should strive to build bridges between departments. This can be done through cross training, joint picnics, parties or off-site creative gatherings, as well as just treating each other well day-to-day.

4. Utilize post mortems after joint projects so everyone can learn from the experience. You can mend fences and gain new understandings when everyone reviews what went right…or wrong. By doing so after the project, or task, the immediate pressure is off, yet stronger bonds can be forged while the experience is fresh in peoples’ minds. Not doing so can result in lingering animosities that will exacerbate future collaborations.

5. Let our employees become “Customer for a Day” to experience firsthand what your customers experience when doing business with you.

By improving internal customer service, we will enhance the service to our external customer. We will build a team that respects one another. We will become World Class!

1 Comment »

  1. Customer service is vital for business success. Those businesses that excel in attracting customer interest and building loyalty will achieve market dominance. Customer service, not price, often is what influences consumer decision-making.

    Consumers make purchase decisions based on both product cost and performance of service. Seldom does price alone win consumer support.

    The Postal Service beats all competitors when it comes to the matrix of price. For a flat rate of less than $15.00, the Postal Service will deliver Express overnight mail delivery to most locations in the United States with track and confirm monitoring. Although the Postal Service takes the trophy for price, their competitors win too often when it comes to the assessment of customer service.

    In the past, the Postal Service was the only option for mail delivery service. Perhaps because of complacency customer service became less prioritized. Times have changed and so has the landscape in the mail delivery industry. The Postal Service must now make customer service a #1 priority.

    In the car industry it is called the “Meet and Greet.” Car sales associates are trained to welcome all customers with an inviting reception to communicate to all customers their patronage is very much appreciated. Offering assistance and making the customer feel they are important is everything about delivering customer service.

    Product knowledge and offering solutions is also how customers assess the value of service. Every Postal Service employee, not just retail and delivery operations must consciously be involved in the effort of providing customer service.

    Inside or out the Postal Service organization customers exists everywhere. Whether we work in transportation, maintenance, or mail automations we all have customer service responsibilities.

    Practice makes perfect. Let’s ensure the outside public customer gets the best service possible by making sure we give ourselves (Houston District inside customers) the royal service of superior product knowledge, excellence in providing solutions, and remarkable concierge service in helping everybody feel they are important and highly valued team members.

    Comment by dpbrink123 | November 24, 2012 | Reply

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