Internal customer satisfaction: how to use surveys to measure and improve internal processes

Regarding your employees, distributors, vendors or departments as internal customers adds a whole new perspective to business management. Improving internal customer satisfaction will eventually result in a more efficient production process, better service and ultimately lead to more satisfied external customers. Measuring internal customer satisfaction can be done in a couple of ways but surveys prove to be the most effective.

Why measure internal customer satisfaction?

“A company is only as strong as its weakest link.” Cliché as this may sound, the statement is very close to the truth. Departments depend on each other in terms of productivity and efficiency – if one is underperforming, the entire chain is stretched. Identifying weak links should be a major concern for any company. (Mind, these so-called “weak links” aren’t necessarily individual people – in most cases underachieving teams or units have multiple problem areas.)

So how do you do that? How do you identify inefficiencies and turn them around? Regular all-staff or inter-departmental meetings are a good start. However, not all employees are keen on openly criticizing their manager, employer or coworker. That’s why surveys are a great addition.

Why survey your own staff?

Every department has its own customers, i.e. the department they are working for. For example, raw materials are purchased by one department, products are manufactured by another and marketed by a third department. Internal customer satisfaction surveys measure perceptions and impressions of internal service, be it communication, productivity and/or responsiveness. Whether or not these impressions are based on facts isn’t actually relevant. These are the concerns which are keeping your departments from working together better and employees from growing. So you should deal with them.

Which questions to ask?

As departments are regarded as customers of other departments, the internal customer satisfaction survey is more or less identical to the external customer satisfaction survey. The same rules apply and the same questions can be asked.

1) Net Promoter Score

How likely are you to recommend [department/team/employees] to another colleague/department/team?

The Net Promoter Score, a metric used for quantifying overall customer satisfaction, can also be used to measure internal customer satisfaction. Promoters, Detractors and Passives will offer valuable insights into how a certain part of your company is performing – or, to be more precise, how its performance is perceived by internal customers.

Overtime these results can be used to compare, benchmark, measure and spot long term trends, which in turn enables fact-based decision making. Some companies even use the Net Promoter Score to base decisions on bonuses and incentives – for instance, the department with the highest score wins a team trip.

→ Learn more about the Net Promoter Score

→ Create your own NPS survey

2) Customer Effort Score

The Customer Effort Score was originally created to measure external customer loyalty but it can just as easily be applied to internal customers.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement:
The organization made it easy for me to handle my issue.

The idea is that organizations create loyal (internal) customers primarily by reducing the amount of effort said customer has to make when trying to solve a problem. From an internal customer’s viewpoint, the Customer Effort Score identifies the level of friction that exists between departments or teams within a company. Effective customer service is all about removing friction, making the experience as smooth as possible. A high Customer Effort Score means other departments or units of a company have to make quite a lot of effort to get things done from the department under scrutiny. In other words, work needs to be done to straighten things out. A low score usually means said department is making things easy for your company.

→ Learn more about the Customer Effort Score

→ Create your own Customer Effort Score Survey

3) Customer Satisfaction Score

How would you rate your experience with department X?

The Customer Satisfaction Score is another metric used to gauge customer satisfaction. It too can be applied to internal customer research. The Customer Satisfaction Score is particularly useful in this case as it can be used to measure experiences with a single or multiple touchpoints, for example, satisfaction about responsiveness, communication skills, productivity, service, …

→ The difference between Customer Satisfaction, Net Promoter and Customer Effort?

→ Create your own Customer Satisfaction Score survey

What to do with all this data?

Now that actionable insights are rolling in, it’s time for department, line and production managers to get to work. They need to use the feedback from internal customers to benchmark internal customer satisfaction, soliciting suggestions for improvement while trying to identify trends related to performance.

To improve internal customer service, managers need to measure, give feedback, and continuously improve upon how employees serve each other. In other words, don’t use the internal customer satisfaction survey as a one trick pony but do multiple surveys, spreading them equally across departments overtime. Doing so you get a constant stream of data managers can use to optimize the production process or service chain and increase a team’s overall efficiency.

→ Read more about actionable insights and closing the feedback loop

In short …

The main benefits of internal customer satisfaction surveys include:

  • Provide a quantitative baseline to compare results.
  • Learn your company’s internal strengths and weaknesses.
  • Reinforce a company’s service orientation, values and mission.
  • Motivate staff as everyone is pulling towards a common goal: excellent service (internally and externally).
  • Identify the areas, teams or departments that may benefit from extra training in a certain field.

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