The Student Services Information Desk (SSiD) is service that provides general student related information to students and their supporters through a range of communication channels including a walk in centre that deals with over 120,000 face to face enquiries and a web presence that has 12 million views a year.
To serve our student customers effectively we work very closely with many colleagues across the University (our internal customers). We support them by providing information services and in two main areas – managing general student messaging and enquiries.
The internal customer
An internal customer is any colleague or team you rely on to complete a task or someone who provides you with information so that you can reach your objectives. That could mean that anyone you interact with while doing your job is your internal customer. It also means that you are everybody else’s internal customer.
We use this model because we have a lot of experience and success of dealing with student customers and many of the elements of service quality are the same: reliability, accuracy, cooperation and respect. Most important is encouraging and giving feedback to evaluate the effectiveness of the relationship.
The importance of excellent internal customer service
Over the years we have noticed that this approach has brought tangible benefits to the team including:
- Helping us improve service to our primary customers: students more effectively.
- Increasing our productivity and the productivity of colleagues.
- Producing better outcomes.
- Improving our staff morale, motivation and satisfaction.
- Promoting cooperative, collaborative and co-creating working relationships with colleagues across the University.
- Improving communication across teams and departments.
- Making the most effective use of existing resources and reducing costs.
Managing the relationship
To develop a mutually beneficial internal customer relationships we need to:
- Clearly communicate our expectations regarding timeline and quality in advance of request.
- Understand what our internal customers’ expectations at every stage of the relationship.
- Keep internal customers informed on project progress.
- Clarifying what is needed from the internal customer by explaining how they can be ‘good customers.’
- Negotiate priorities and be involved in their expectation setting.
- Set clear guidelines about what internal customers can reasonably expect.
- Help colleagues understand your processes and time-scales necessary to meet their requirements.
- Explain the strain caused by constantly working on a customer’s emergency or last minute requests.
Improving internal customer service
Even as we continue to provide a quality service all manner issues can arise which can threaten to diminish the relationship. Here are some additional tactics we can employ to keep us on track:
- Create and encourage forums to share information.
- Be proactive in sharing information with internal customers.
- Resolve problems in a quick and effective manner.
- Focus on shared interests such as operational efficiency and organisational success.
- Proactively identify problems and conflicts of interest and seek to resolve these issues promptly and satisfactorily.
- Provide and request timely and useful feedback from colleagues.
In some situations where relation become strained it may also be useful to develop ground rules for cooperation and communication with colleagues.