The Customer Within: Provide Coworkers With The Best Service Possible

When we talk about customer service, we usually think about how we deal with the people who walk through our doors--both physical and virtual--to purchase our products and services. What we often fail to realize, however, is that we also have customers within our organizations; those customers are our coworkers.


Customer service means being responsive to a customer's needs and being resourceful in meeting those needs. Customer service is many things: knowledge, communication, skill, attitude, efficiency, integrity, reliability, knowledge, and helpfulness.

How you interact with coworkers and supervisors has a huge impact on the effectiveness of the team. When Dan asks for your help, do you tell him that it's not your responsibility, or do you eagerly offer to do whatever you can to help him meet his deadline? When Bethany points out an error, do you get defensive, or do you view her comment as constructive and vow to improve your performance?

When you treat coworkers with respect, when you help them solve their problems and meet or exceed the demands of the job, your value increases dramatically. Just as you should do whatever it takes to satisfy a customer, you should do whatever it takes to help a coworker.

If you want to ensure that the service you are providing is exceptional, take these steps:

  • Develop a positive attitude. Your attitude is reflected in everything you do. It not only determines how you approach your job and your coworkers, it determines how they respond to you. Don't complain--and don't hang around negative coworkers. Do whatever it takes to get the job done--and done right.
  • Listen. You can't help a coworker unless you hear and understand what he needs. Listening shows that you care and provides you the information you need to do what needs to be done. Ask questions. Rephrase what your coworker is saying to ensure that you understand the situation. Then use that information to decide how to move forward.
  • Solve problems. Great customer service professionals are quick on their feet. They have the skills necessary to quickly analyze a situation and decide what needs to be done to solve the problem. Don't procrastinate. Develop a plan of attack, and handle the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Be accessible. This means returning phone calls and responding to emails as quickly as possible. Doing so sends the message that what your coworker needs is important to you and that you are available and eager to provide whatever assistance is needed.
  • Be honest. If a task is outside your level of expertise, or if you cannot meet the required deadline, admit it. Then offer to facilitate by helping your coworker identify someone in the organization who does have the expertise and the time to assist with the project. Honesty earns respect. The same holds true when you make a mistake. Admit it, apologize, and learn from it.
  • Make your coworkers feel valued. Recognize them with a smile. Call them by name. Make eye contact. Be attentive to what they have to say. Compliment them when they do a good job. Ask for their advice. Make them feel important.
  • Perform. Deliver what you promise. Send the message that your coworkers can depend on you. Do what you say you will do--and do it with quality, speed, and accuracy. If you say you are going to complete a report by Tuesday, do your best to complete it by Monday.

There is great power in mastering the skills necessary to provide exceptional customer service. You will gain confidence in yourself and your abilities, you will earn the respect of your coworkers, and you will be recognized and rewarded. You will set yourself apart and be recognized as a valuable member of the team. And you will have satisfied customers.

John Tschohl, the internationally recognized service strategist, is founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Described by USA Today, Time, and Entrepreneur as a "customer service guru," he has written several books on customer service and has developed more than 26 customer-service programs that have been distributed throughout the world.

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