Who Even Cares About Internal Service?!
Dominate service with competitive pricing and you have a good chance to control the market, right? When you read this, did you reflect on the service you are delivering to your external members? Probably. What about the service you are offering to each other inside your credit union? Credit unions realize the immense benefits of engaged and loyal members, but those credit unions looking to dominate and expand their business are developing strategies around both internal and external members.
As the saying goes, "Charity begins at home." We’re all in the business where it’s now table stakes to offer an excellent customer experience. However, incredible internal customer service is the leading indicator of incredible member experiences. At ServiStar we believe your members will never love your credit union more than your employees.
Internal (or department-to-department) customer service, in this context, refers to areas within an organization that rely on their colleagues in support departments to get their job done. Both the employees and stakeholders are essential to the success of any business enterprise.
Here's an instance - the HR department is responsible for the staff welfare of the company, often serving as the bridge between the team and management. For them to function effectively, they'll need IT infrastructure. If IT cannot provide services for them, the department will have challenges.
Companies that focus solely on offering superb services to their members will hit a glass ceiling, but those that consider both internal and external services can break through and become industry leaders.
Internal service goes beyond listening and making the employee comfortable. It is treating the staff as an essential aspect of business growth. Forward-thinking companies that have applied this hack see the benefits in multiple folds.
Why internal Service is ESSENTIAL for Business Growth.
Over the years, I’ve observed the most successful credit unions are those always on the lookout for ideal strategies that benefit their internal team AND external members. Such practices give them a massive advantage over the competition. One is not more important than the other. Internal and external strategies must both have a seat at the big-kid table.
● Culture of the Company
In my experience, how impactful the internal service is will ultimately affect the outcome of external members. In reality, a credit union’s culture is basically "this is how things are done around here." If the credit union's values do not show respect for the team's welfare, rights and privileges of the group, it will ultimately affect the external member’s experience. (Have you ever seen a farmer who didn’t feed their family? How about a cobbler who didn’t have a pair of shoes?)
If the front desk, for instance, is not armed with the correct information and tools, first-time customers at the company will suffer due to lack of information, and in crucial companies, like banks and airlines, it could cost time and money.
● Market Competition and Poaching.
Let's face it, companies are always at risk of losing their best talent to their competitors. As if that is not enough, poaching employees who eventually leave could lead to the company's secrets which can be disastrous, in the long run.
A dedicated internal service where each team member is treated as a valuable, indispensable customer will build a sense of dedication and ownership to the business, that will increase retention rates.
Retaining top talent will reflect in developing external-customers-oriented programs leading to impeccable services.
● Increased System and Processes Productivity.
A familiar problem employees face in a business is often waiting on a fellow colleague to complete the process. This is called a bottleneck. Bottlenecks mean a team member relies on another colleague to offer the necessary service or product to perform their duties effectively.
Increasing the dedication to internal service reduces the frustration related to bottlenecks, reduces inefficiency and promotes consistency.
For example, if a procurement department does not process a purchasing order in time, the purchasing agent will face significant stress and become frustrated. The delay will only increase the waiting time for the order. Consequently, the external client the ruling directly affects will get a terrible experience.
Tips to Increase Customer Internal Service
Here are some tips for increasing internal service. You should understand that this is often a long-term process and can take time before it becomes effective - don’t give up.
► Intense and Regular Training for Employees
To increase internal service, all employees must have ongoing training. An essential part of the training should focus on delivering impeccable services to all employees, stakeholders and external customers.
The awareness of meeting other colleagues' needs will directly affect external members. From the top-down, the experiences all employees should have from day one should be dedicated to improving internal members’ communication and resolving issues, and therefore enhancing external member experiences. Continuous learning needs to be in the DNA of every credit union employee.
► Build Standards for Services
Having service standards is an instrumental piece in kick-starting internal customer service. A service standard is designed to help employees understand what the business is about, its processes, and how to respond to their fellow teammates who need them to perform best. With four generations of employees now working together, defining these standards reduces miscommunication. Over the years we’ve helped develop these for credit unions. Reach out to me and I can share some of them with you.
Having an objective standard for internal and external customers will serve as a benchmark for consistently treating fellow colleagues in the organization.
An example of such a standard is setting a time frame any employee must act on a fellow team member's request. This seems like a commonsense idea, but setting, sharing and living these standards is not common practice. Think about the timeframe you typically respond to voicemails? How quickly do you reply? One employee may feel following up on a voicemail within 24 hours is sufficient, but is it? Without defined standards employees won’t know what they don’t know.
Never stop learning. Through college, you spend four years paying to learn. Afterward, you should be spending your career getting paid to learn. Periodic internal transfers within departments are beneficial to both the employee and the company.
The transfers affect all levels of the credit union. Working in another area or department doesn’t have to always be in the form of a promotion; lateral moves should always be on the table. Credit unions can also create ways to formalize job shadowing, or temporary department or branch swaps.
A team member or leader transferring from a related department to another will help them appreciate the work done in such a unit. Bonus: It also helps to expand organizational knowledge and grow the employee’s career.
► Monitoring and Evaluation.
A company should inspect what they expect because what gets inspected gets respected.
Credit unions with a tool to monitor and evaluate progress will determine and learn different opportunities for each department (and leader) to improve. Also having an anonymous, open forum for employees to expound on their ratings with comments, praise another employee and outline specifics for improvement helps create an enhanced, streamlined member experience. When an employee feels they have a voice (that is heard) and something gets done, an employee is more engaged.
Feedback from other departments also helps create (or eliminate) policies to solve problems in a department or branch.
We know enhancing the Member Experience, which ultimately generates revenue for our credit unions, is where the company's engine room resides. But, don’t forget about your internal members.
A similar focus should be on internal customers who have direct access and impact on the external member.
Whatever the case, if your culture does not promote the importance of internal service, you’ll be trying to summit the mountain without oxygen. It’s worth repeating - your members will never love your credit union more than your employees.
Now do something about it…
right now… like today!