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Why Your Work Colleagues Might Be Your Most Important Customers

Learn why delivering exceptional customer service starts inside the organization.
Why Your Work Colleagues Might Be Your Most Important Customers
Image credit: Courtesy of the Disney Institute

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Imagine it’s 5:25 p.m., nearing the end of a busy workday. A colleague is rushing to get an important package shipped to client and can’t find the right type of packing materials anywhere—not even in the mail room. You and several of your fellow employees pass by on the way out as they frantically search through the office for the necessary materials. How many stop to ask if they can help? Some? Everyone? None?

Our Disney Institute team hears from business professionals that scenarios like this happen in their workplaces every day, with a wide variety of outcomes. In some organizations, multiple colleagues might notice the person in need and proactively offer their assistance to help make sure the package gets out the door on time. While in others, the employee might not be given a second look.

I’m sure we can all imagine the impact of these two different types of behavior, but why does this variation occur at all?

Through our work conducting Disney service training around the world, we have seen that too many organizations tend to focus on service primarily as an external-facing effort—with exceptional experiences reserved for paying customers and clients.

At Disney Institute, we believe an organization must cultivate internal customer service with the same intentionality as external customer service. Not just the job of a single department, providing great service is everyone’s responsibility in the organization.

We have found that the quality of service employees provide to each other within the organization is critical to the way service is provided externally. The two are interdependent, creating a “virtuous cycle” that feeds off each other.

Here are two reasons to consider this “virtuous cycle” in your workplace:

It comes down to respect. People really do want to work somewhere they feel they’re appreciated and treated with respect. When employees are more friendly, helpful and supportive of one another, overall employee engagement tends to also also be stronger, and the quality of internal service can begin to differentiate your organization as an employer of choice.

You can’t give what you don’t have. It’s nearly impossible for exceptional external service to exist without exceptional internal service. Your internal service environment should be viewed as part of a value chain that drives your external service experience. When you take great care of your fellow employees, you can reasonably expect that they will go above and beyond to take great care of your customers.

You might be wondering, “So, where should I start to improve my organization’s internal service?” The answer is fairly straightforward—start the same way you would to create exceptional external service.

In our Disney’s Approach to Quality Service training course, we teach participants this important differentiator: start by recruiting and hiring people with a heart for service, because it’s everyone’s role to provide great service, not just the “service department.” Then, train everyone in the same customer service values, framework, and skills, including those working in “heart-of-house” operations and support functions.

Finally, remember that your external customers can sense if and when employees truly care about them as an individual. If this is true, then the best way to create that sense of genuine care with your customers is to create the same sense of genuine care among employees.

I learned a great lesson on all this a few years ago from a colleague who ran one of our Cast (employee) cafeterias in what we refer to as a “backstage” area. He made sure that everyone in that location knew, “our back door is someone else’s front door,” and they deserved to be treated with the same respect as any other guest.

In that sort of environment, where everyone pitches in to help find the right materials, the work tends to get a whole lot easier for employees, and customers and clients seem to always get their packages on time. That’s a win for everyone, including your business.

Think about it: What is one thing you personally can start doing to provide excellent service to your fellow employees?

For more information, visit us at

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