How can I possibly impact customer service when I don’t have direct contact with customers?

Lately, I’ve been asked this question frequently, especially during my customer service training classes.

The answer to this question is a resounding, “Everyone impacts the customer experience.”

I’ve always advocated the attitude that “everyone is your customer,” and that we must treat everyone with respect. And we must also extend this respect to the service we provide to people with whom we never interact or meet.

Well, apparently, this explanation is not good enough for some people to realize that everyone in an organization impacts customer service. So, to help my concept ring true with these naysayers, I offer them a few examples, which I share with you now.

Real world examples: lost-luggage[1]

  • I have a great flight on my favorite airline, Southwest Airlines. But the airline loses my luggage. I’m angry. The person who lost my luggage is someone with whom I never interacted.
  • I’m a patient at a medical group, and I have to wait an extra 30 minutes to get my blood drawn because the supply order clerk forgot to place an order for supplies. I’ve never met this clerk.
  • I eat out with my husband at a fancy restaurant, and the restroom is filthy. I’ve never interacted with anyone on the janitorial team.
  • I buy a product at Best Buy using my credit card, but when I get my bill in the mail three weeks later, I’m charged $20 too much. I’ve never met the accounting person at Best Buy who is responsible for reconciling credit card purchases.

In each of these instances, my impression as a customer was negatively impacted by someone with whom I had never even spoken.  So now, I must call Customer Service to complain.

What, then, is a company to do? Can this be prevented? Can the goal of the organization be communicated from the CEO all the way down to all employees?

The answers are YES. Here are two examples:

Southwest Airlines’ mission is “dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”

From the website …“The mission statement of has nothing to do with what it sells on its Internet shopping website and everything to do with who is buying the products – the customers. The mission statement of is “To provide the best customer service possible.”

Here’s some insight: When you ask an employee — any employee, at any level in an organization — “What do you do?,” listen to how the person answers. Does the airline employee say, “I load bags onto airplanes,” or does he say, “I make sure customers travel with safety and happiness.” His “customer” is the passenger AND it’s also the person who has to unload those bags after the plane arrives.

Does the Olympic gold medal maker say, “I make molds for medals,” or does she say, “ I make medals for Olympic athletes.” Who is that mold maker’s customer? Yes, it’s the athlete. And it’s also the person who handles the mold when he’s through.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. In customer service, ALWAYS think about the “big picture.” What is the goal of your organization, and how does your department play a role in fulfilling that mission?
  2. Be very clear of who your “customer” really is. Who is most impacted by what you do every single day? Who’s the next person down line who will be impacted?
  3. Find out your customers’ expectations and clearly communicate yours. Communicate what you need from them to meet their needs.
  4. Whenever it’s appropriate, be clear on priorities and time frames, and give regular updates on progress and delays.
  5. Get out of your “box.” Get to know the people with whom you will be working and communicating on a regular basis.

Remember: When you provide a product or service, you will always impact people who you’ll never meet. Internal customers are just as important – if not more important – than our external customers. When we treat each other well, whether you like them or not, your company will succeed by providing the best possible customer service that no other company can match.

Have you ever worked on a team that didn’t work well with other departments? How did you make it work? Please share your insight below.

3 Responses to “How can I possibly impact customer service when I don’t have direct contact with customers?”

  1. 1 sjdigioia May 10, 2013 at 5:34 am

    Very well said. These are some perfect examples to show others how everyone impacts customer service in one form or another.

  2. 2 business coaching July 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    I like reading through a post that can make men and women think.
    Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

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