Think about what happens when you experience excellent customer service? I don’t know about you, but when I experience great customer service, I become a loyal and dedicated customer.
External and Internal Customers
As a small business coach, I’ve used the idea of internal and external customers with my clients for years. Here’s how I frame the idea. Your external customers are the people who buy your products and services. Your internal customers are all of your co-workers within the business, with whom you are constantly working with to make the business run.
Examples are: Administrative teams, support sales teams, operations teams, all help deliver the product while the finance team pays the bills. You get the idea?
Now let’s look at how we provide service to these “customers.”
With external customers, many times you have to be very flexible, resilient, and put on a friendly face to navigate difficult situations, yet find a win-win for long-term, healthy, financial success.
It’s the same thing with an internal customer (co-workers or family). Yet, unfortunately, many people forget that. They tend to be a bit more harsh, unforgiving and impatient with the internal customer.
What if you thought of your family members as internal customers? These people, who at times, can annoy the hell out of you. At the same time, you know the importance of building and keeping a solid, long-term relationship.
The minute you start to resent your customers or start to take on a prickly attitude with them, you are undoubtedly going to run them off and diminish the value of your business.
I know sometimes we might just be better off without some unreasonable customers who are more headache than they are worth. I can see the validity to that argument in some cases.
Yet, having watched and interacted with a large variety of families and teams for 20 years, I have found that many times a little bit of good customer service skills can go a long way to building a stronger, more sustainable team.
Try these things and see if they change the dynamic of your team:
- Listen without reacting
- Repeat what you are hearing to make sure you understand
- Use a calm, warm tone
- Explore solutions that might find win-win
- Follow through in a timely manner and be responsive to the issue
- Genuinely acknowledge their pain, even if you can’t fix it (show empathy)
I truly believe the old saying, “People like to do business with people they LIKE.” I know how hard it can be to work with family members.
Make an effort to incorporate this “internal customer service” idea into developing your family business culture and you may have a much more enjoyable and sustainable family team.
I hope you keep finding ways for your team to play to their potential!
Pete Walsh offers family business consulting services, workshops, tools and resources as the founder of the Family Business Performance Center. Subscribe to his newsletter or get in touch to get actionable insights to help your family business grow for generations to come.