Make or Break… why Internal Customer Experience is Essential


First to clarify what internal Customer Experience (CX) is – it is defined as the experience that the employees and other departments within an organisation provide to each other, as well as suppliers and any other internal stakeholders with whom they work to get their jobs done or who help them get their jobs done.

So why is internal CX important?

Simply put it can make or break a CX programme and is thus fundamental in delivering a successful CX programme.

As customer service expert and author, Shep Hyken, so succinctly says ‘The internal Customer Experience determines the external Customer Experience’. Meaning if you do not get the internal functions working together then it is more difficult for the frontline staff to deliver excellent CX. Yet all too often it is overlooked with resource and energy focused externally or predominantly on frontline staff.

We are often asked when do you implement an Internal CX programme? Is at the outset better or only once the programme is embedded? For us the answer is always at the outset. Organisations need to look internally first at every part of business to ensure teams are aligned and working together to deliver excellent customer experience.

In our experience the internal Customer Experience is usually a good indicator of likely success of a CX programme. For example, say a salesperson calls head-office at 1.30pm with a customer stood in front of them with query, but only gets voicemail because the whole team are out at lunch, that salesperson is therefore unable to respond immediately and deliver a superior Customer Experience. This example highlights a lack of team alignment and understanding of the sales person’s needs.

How do you implement an internal CX programme?

The principles are the same whether you are looking at an external or internal audience. Start with discovery first so you have a clear understanding where departments are currently at. Speak to different teams, ‘mystery shop’ departments, understand processes and gaps.

Then once you understand where you are at internally then look to win their ‘Heart and Minds’ so they start to think differently and understand their role delivering excellent customer experience. Also map internal customer journeys and gather feedback from internal clients.

Success factors for internal Customer Experience…

Top management support… the whole senior management team needs to buy into and demonstrate behaviours on a daily basis.

Embedding action… it is not enough to talk about CX you must also take action, otherwise you risk losing credibility with your employees.

Knowing your internal customers… departments need to understand how they impact on other functions. Communication and processes are key so they can better respond to their internal customer’s needs.

Engaged and empowered employees… training and communication can help employees give the ability and the autonomy to provide the best service possible, rather than fear repercussions.

Momentum… building and then sustaining momentum is important – have a plan, assign ownership and set objectives and then hold everyone to account.

In conclusion

In closing some wise words from Jan Carlzon who dramatically turned around failing Scandinavian Airlines in the 1980s with his unrelenting focus on customer service quality:

“There’s a remarkably close and consistent link between how internal customers are treated and how external customers perceive the quality of your organisation’s services. A commitment to serve internal customers invariably shows itself to external customers. It’s almost impossible to provide great external service if your organisation is not providing great internal service”