Departments like IT, HR, Finance provide critical services to other employees – their internal customers. Internal customers may not generate additional revenues in the same fashion as external customers; but for many organisations, these employees are the face of the company to external customers. Keeping them effective, productive and satisfied is essential to creating positive experiences for external customers!
However large companies are increasingly removing the mandates that employees must use internal departments for all services. In fact, companies such as Sony allow business units to choose whether they use shared services, develop their own expertise or go outside the organisation for these services.
With this increasing competition, internal departments are now forced to implement the principles and processes of Key Account Management as a way to demonstrate value and cement customer loyalty with their internal customers. Without developing a more strategic mindset, many will find it very difficult to justify their existence long term.
Not unlike organisations focusing on external customers, we need to start with a basic understanding of the customer. Departments like IT that primarily serve internal customers, usually think only in terms of organisational divisions when they discuss their customers. However, a strategic account management mindset coupled with research and analysis helps staff to understand that there are common segments of customers that reach across traditional organisational boundaries.
Looking at the recency, frequency and dollar values (usually costs) of common behaviours along with needs and attitudes helps to separate these internal customers into actionable segments – segments that require different levels of service and often- customised versions of products and services.
In fact, just like external customers, it's often easy to pinpoint the top 20% of employees who consume 80% or more of the time and services (not to mention costs) of departments like HR, IT, and finance.
It is imperative to understand the internal customer’s business, their products and services. The holy grail of Key Account Management is to understand their business better than they do!
Many internal service organisations have never taken the time to define their products and services –from their customers' perspective. Going beyond features and benefits to defining how products and services provide a TBE (Total Business Experience) for the customer. That means NOT just talking about the features and benefits of the specific services you provide, but going beyond this to working with the customer to create an advantage over potential competitors.
To ensure the loyalty of internal customers, departments have to demonstrate and prove the value they are providing. The tangible product/service and the price is only part of the equation. Often, the real value added from the customer’s perspective emphasises other important factors such as communication, convenience, ease of use, fast turnaround, support and quick problem resolution.
“If you are not serving the external customer, you job (the reason you exist) is to serve those who do”. Increasingly we need to be more strategic about how we do this and less ad hoc. We need to change the way we operate and become more “entrepreneurial” - as if we are in a highly competitive market, or risk losing the business!