Internal Customers


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Emphasis on satisfying the company’s customers has become such a dominant theme that it has made its way into many management theories. The idea goes something like this “Those who support other departments in the company should treat those they service as-if they were customers.”

There is a flaw, however, in this noble concept, and that is the “as-if” part. It is a flaw because we are inclined to be more responsive when there are consequences. Actions that rely on attitude alone tend to be short–lived.

We tend to the customer knowing that he or she will go elsewhere if not satisfied with our products or services. If treating others in our company “as-if” they were customers makes sense, why not take the step of making them customers “in-fact.”

 

Let’s examine what defines a “customer”:  

  • A customer specifies the work to be done.

  • A customer is the one with the money. He or she compensates the vendor for services rendered.

  • A customer can select a vendor. If a customer is not happy with the service he or she can go elsewhere to get the quality, delivery and cost desired.

 The actual situation inside operations is as follows:

  • The internal “customer” usually does specify the work required, which includes the completion date, but may not actually get the service as specified, on the date required or either. It’s not unusual for a project to get pushed back because of “other priorities”, lack of manpower, lack of material or a myriad of other “reasons.”

  • Those in other departments don’t compensate the “vendor”. It’s usually the employee’s supervisor who evaluates and compensates.

  • Finally, since each type service is the domain of one department, the internal “customer” has no choice but to deal with only one “vendor.”

Process and Service Accountability addresses each of these points: 

  • The individual requesting service determines what the service will be and when it will be completed. The service requisition is tracked and graded. The individual requesting the service signs-off on the requisition when it meets his or her acceptance.

  • Compensation comes from providing timely and precise support to internal “customers.” An individual’s salary adjustments are the result of their graded service rather than a supervisor’s general perception of their work.

  • Funds are included in each department’s budget to allow seeking expertise not found in house. In the long run, departments that do not perform are restructured.  Ultimately this has the same effect as going to a different “vendor”.

 

 

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