Impact Learning Systems


Reasons Why All Employees Need Internal Customer Service Training Seth Brickner

Internal Customer CommunicationThe Value of Inter­nal Communication

For years I've been lead­ing classes in com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and many of my clients have been tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies.  I tend to work with their Level 2 and Level 3 engi­neers, and inevitably a par­tic­i­pant will tell me “I think they enrolled me in this class by mis­take. I don’t work directly with cus­tomers; I’m an esca­la­tion engi­neer and every­one I work with is internal.”

While every­one agrees that ser­vice and sup­port peo­ple need to be nice to their exter­nal cus­tomers (the ones who pay for our prod­ucts and ser­vices), some fail to see the role of com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills in cre­at­ing a happy work envi­ron­ment that sets every­one up for success.

Here are a cou­ple rea­sons why com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills train­ing is essen­tial for “internal-only” employees.

Rea­son #1:  A com­mon ser­vice lan­guage helps break down barriers. 

Indige­nous to tech­nol­ogy cul­tures is an “Us/Them” atti­tude* which has both good and bad con­se­quences: it bonds team mem­bers while inhibit­ing inter-department com­mu­ni­ca­tion (Note: Any­one who doubts this should spend nine years in a tech­ni­cal sup­port depart­ment as I have and see if you feel dif­fer­ently). There’s Sup­port vs. Devel­op­ment; Sup­port vs. Sales; Engi­neer­ing vs. Man­age­ment; Field engi­neers vs. Phone sup­port; Every­body vs. R&D.  One of the main rea­sons behind this is that dif­fer­ent depart­ments have dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties, and it’s a rare day when any of those pri­or­i­ties are in align­ment.  The biggest thing on Support’s plate, for exam­ple, may be a burn­ing cus­tomer issue, while the high­est pri­or­ity for Sus­tain­ing Engi­neer­ing may be to under­stand why the lat­est regres­sion test failed. Sales needs to move prod­uct; man­agers need to hit their num­bers.  We close ranks with those whose pri­or­i­ties are clos­est to our own.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are the tools we use to help begin align­ing our pri­or­i­ties.  The skills one uses to calm down an upset cus­tomer are help­ful in answer­ing a flam­ing e-mail from some­one in another depart­ment.  The skills used when you can’t ful­fill a customer’s request are valu­able when explain­ing to a man­ager that your queue is already full but here’s what you can do that might be help­ful.  Bot­tom line: good com­mu­ni­ca­tion reduces fric­tion between depart­ments.

Rea­son #2:  Hap­pi­ness starts at home.

The less fric­tion we have between depart­ments, the nicer it is to work for our com­pany. There’s plenty of research show­ing that orga­ni­za­tions with good inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion are more pro­duc­tive than those with poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion. You don’t need to cite research to under­stand why: we’re more pro­duc­tive when we’re hap­pier.  “Internal-only” employ­ees with whom it’s easy to com­mu­ni­cate con­tribute to hap­pier “external-facing” employ­ees, who in turn con­tribute to hap­pier, more loyal cus­tomers. Bot­tom line: if you want happy cus­tomers, begin by ensur­ing that your inter-department com­mu­ni­ca­tion is as effec­tive as pos­si­ble.

How does a com­pany improve inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions? Here are some of the best indus­try prac­tices employed by those orga­ni­za­tions with loyal cus­tomers and happy employees:

  • Start with an under­stand­ing that we are all cus­tomers of each other.  Some of our cus­tomers are inter­nal, some are exter­nal, and we can com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter with all of them by using our best com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills.
  • Get every­one on-board with a com­mon ser­vice lan­guage.  This doesn't mean that a field engi­neer, a man­ager and a phone rep always share the same com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs; it means that com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills train­ing for your orga­ni­za­tion should pro­vide a com­pre­hen­sive frame­work which encom­passes the vocab­u­lary, skills and sce­nar­ios char­ac­ter­is­tic to all positions.
  • Finally, employ the com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills you want your employ­ees and cowork­ers to emu­late.  Don’t speak neg­a­tively about other depart­ments, choose your words just as care­fully whether you’re send­ing an e-mail or speak­ing on the phone, and remem­ber that respect and patience go a long way in help­ing us align our under­stand­ing with other groups.

As Gandhi so elo­quently stated: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


* It’s my belief that if Pink Floyd hadn't writ­ten “Us and Them” for Dark Side of the Moon in 1973, a song by the same title would have been writ­ten by tech­ni­cal sup­port engi­neers a few decades later.

Seth Brick­ner is a Devel­oper and Facil­i­ta­tor with Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems Inter­na­tional. In addi­tion to train­ing and devel­op­ment, his back­ground includes edu­ca­tion, tech­ni­cal sup­port and cus­tomer ser­vice. When not trav­el­ing or in front of a com­puter mon­i­tor, Seth can be found run­ning, cook­ing, play­ing gui­tar, read­ing, con­vinc­ing him­self he can sing, or enjoy­ing the hik­ing trails of Colorado.
Seth Brickner
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