Spotlight on the customer: Bridging the Internal-External Divide

As you set yourself the task of improving your company's business processes, you may wish to focus on how your changes will optimize the end experience of the customer. But who exactly counts as a customer of your organization? Your company's customer base is likely larger than you expected, which means you may need to rethink your approach to business process management.

Who Are Your Customers?

Although you may think of your customers as a single monolithic block, they can actually be divided into two groups: internal and external customers. "External customers" are what people generally picture when they think of a business' customers. If you have no affiliation with an organization but you use their products or services, then you are an external customer of that organization. "Internal customers," on the other hand, are members of the organization who rely on others in the organization to do their job. For example, a manager may rely on the work of other people in the department in order to make decisions.

From Internal to External

Internal customers can be situational or temporary. They can be your subordinate, your boss, your colleague or someone in another department entirely. Since your internal customers generally aren't visible to the outside world, you may think that their satisfaction has no impact on how well you serve your external customers. Yet in many situations, the opposite is the case. For instance, if a mistake is made that affects an outward-facing employee, such as a payroll error, their negative attitude may hurt your external customer service. Another example is when an employee enters an inaccurate or incomplete order, which leads to delays in delivering the requested product.

Reforming Behaviours

To truly make a value-added impact on your business processes, you must understand the behaviours of both internal and external customers. Every person in your organisation has some impact on your external customers. Just like poor external customer service will lose you external customers, practicing poor internal customer service will lose you employees. Upgrading your internal customer service through business process management can potentially cut your costs, increase employee productivity and improve morale. If you wish to provide excellent external customer service, you must first start by looking within.

7 steps to BPM Success