IT departments used to call their colleagues in other functions ‘end users’. Now they more typically refer to them as ‘customers’ (or sometimes ‘internal customers’, to differentiate them from the organization’s real customers).
While some people consider this another pointless addition to the Orwellian lexicon of management jargon, in fact thinking about colleagues as customers has almost certainly helped some IT departments to become more outward-looking and service-focused – constantly striving for ever greater internal customer satisfaction. Who knows whether calling them customers has helped cement that thinking – but it hasn’t done any harm (apart from maybe sounding a bit cheesy).
However, there’s an even more interesting reason why internal customer satisfaction should be a key focus for organizations: when your employees are happy it also boosts satisfaction levels among your actual customers, thus increasing sales.
Customer Satisfaction Thanks to Satisfied Employees?
Although there’s long been evidence of a correlation between employee satisfaction and business performance, until recent years there was no real proof of a causal link. No one was sure whether employees were more satisfied because they had a bunch of loyal, happy customers using their products and services, or whether the customers grew more satisfied because they were dealing with a business that had happy, motivated, productive employees. But in a 2014 article, Forbes cited a 2012 study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology that proved pretty convincingly that “organizational commitment has more impact on business unit performance than vice versa”.
Satisfaction Means Engagement
A lot of business strategists now refer to customer or employee ‘engagement’ rather than ‘satisfaction’, arguing that the former implies more active participation and relationship building, while the latter could indicate a certain level of laid-back smugness. They may have a point, but at the end of the day it’s not the semantics that matter, it’s what you do. But to be clear, when we refer to employee or customer satisfaction here, we mean it in the sense of people being happy, engaged and motivated.
Management has a leading role to play in creating the right organizational structure, business processes and culture, as clearly does HR. But IT’s role is equally critical. IT must oil the wheels of productivity by providing tools which allow people to do their jobs as quickly, efficiently, flexibly and productively as possible, without unnecessary hiccups or hindrances.
Clearly, the cloud is key here. Many IT departments are trying to transform themselves into the organization’s one-stop shop for cloud services, selecting and integrating the right range of tools, applications and platforms to satisfy – and ideally delight – colleagues. They must consider the options both from an organizational point of view (ensuring everything is properly integrated, reliable, secure, compliant and cost-efficient), but also – critically – from the point of view of internal customer satisfaction.
Becoming a Cloud Service Broker
That doesn’t mean simply issuing customer satisfaction surveys with a view to getting the right ticks in the box (even the inventor of said surveys no longer thinks they’re effective).
What it means is becoming a true broker of services, building solid relationships with your colleagues on one side in order to truly understand what they need, and with a range of providers on the other, ensuring they can provide all the elements you need to deliver reliable, efficient and compliant solutions that meet or surpass those needs. Only then can you put together the right mix of technologies that will engage your colleagues, improve your productivity and boost the level of service your organization’s employees are able to provide to your real customers.