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Are You Listening: The Voice of the Internal Customer

Hank Brigman has many years of experience sharing methodologies, tips and best practices on customer service. This is part of  a series he's shared with from his upcoming book TOUCHPOiNT Power.

To serve your customers well, you have to find out if your departments actually function together or if their relationships are more dysfunctional than those on a celebrity reality show. Determining this and getting to the root of any issues involves learning how to listen to and act upon the voice of the internal customer.

You probably already are familiar with VOC (voice of customer), or what the customer is saying about and what they want from your product or services through listening posts (any point along a customer journey where you collect customer or employee feedback, including surveys, through social media, or other customer service channels).

In addition to VOC, at the conclusion of important customer experiences or journeys, it is important to capture VOIC (voice of internal customer). Here’s how you do it: at the conclusion of the complaint process or after onboarding a new client, producing a conference, conducting training, launching a new product or completing an annual promotion, survey all employees involved in the process.

How voice of internal customer brings insight

Voice of internal customer efforts can provide insight about customer problems and internal inefficiencies. VOIC typically examines both infrastructure — the policies, procedures and systems by which staff are required to operate — and the individual staff themselves. It’s through VOIC that challenges in departmental cooperation —and their reasons — typically surface. 

And, VOIC is quantifiable. Just as it is important to have a macro customer-relationship metric, it’s also important to establish a VOIC macro metric that provides insight into the overall health of colleague teamwork and cooperation.

VOC can (and sometimes needs to) start with VOIC

I was working with a new client that couldn’t wait to get started on their gorilla VOC metrics. In our assessment or discovery step, it was clear that everyone wasn’t playing well in the company sandbox. Customer Service was pointing fingers at Regulatory — they were taking forever to serve customer complaints. In fact, the internal processing of complaints was so bad they were getting complaints about their complaint process. This, after two efforts to examine and improve their complaint process. Think about that. But I digress.

Sales was pointing fingers at Accounting — customers saying the people in Accounting weren’t always pleasant. Customer Service and Sales were pointing fingers at each other for not being responsive to each other and for not being customer-focused.

My recommendation was to start with VOIC and I laid it out like this:

  • Start with 360-degree reviews of an experience such as complaints
  • Have the review cover the processes, policies, and systems as well as individuals
  • Name names and get the dirt out on the table

As it turned out, their problems were multifaceted.  Part of the problem was individuals, and part internal systems and policies.

Paying customers suffer when you don’t listen to your internal customers

It’s amazing the change in behavior that can be created when individuals know they’re going to be evaluated on their customer service and teamwork. It’s true that “what gets measured gets results.” The organization I highlighted above was not ready for VOC. They might have uncovered amazing opportunities from their customers, but their inability to work together internally would have inhibited their ability to fully capitalize on those opportunities.

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