Internal customer service: Definition, tips, and examples
Internal customer service can help improve the employee experience at a time when workers are increasingly dissatisfied at work. Here are a few tips.
By Sarah Olson, Staff Writer, @seolson5
Last updated August 4, 2022
Internal service for employees is just like customer service. The same rules apply: Make yourself available, answer questions, solve problems, and monitor feedback. Having a process for handling internal questions is one thing you can do to improve the employee experience at a time when workers are increasingly dissatisfied at work.
And recently, corporate workers have had a lot of questions. According to Zendesk’s Employee Experience Trends Report 2022, requests from corporate employees increased 31 percent last year, nearly double the rate seen by both B2B and B2C companies.
Work has changed a lot in the last few years, and it’s not surprising that employees need more support. Providing internal service is important because how you treat your employees trickles down to your customer relationships and impacts the bottom line.
If you aren’t familiar with internal customer service, here are a few things you should know.
What is internal customer service?
Companies provide internal customer service to help their employees find information and solve problems that come up during the work day. An internal customer service team would respond to questions like these:
- How do I reset my password?
- Can I see my pay stubs online?
- Is the day after Thanksgiving a holiday?
- What should I do if I spilled coffee on my laptop?
Why is internal customer service important?
Internal customer service, or employee service, is important because it keeps back office operations running smoothly. Good internal service means employees can spend more time on meaningful work and less time troubleshooting the printer.
Having an internal help desk is good for both companies and workers:
- Employers need to help their employees and ensure protocols are followed. Internal customer service is important because it creates a formal process for communicating with employees and gives you a vehicle to share important information, like security protocols, so they can avoid putting themselves or the company at risk.
- Employees need to be able to find internal knowledge to get their jobs done. Internal support is good for employee satisfaction and retention because employees can more easily solve problems that impede their work, and they know someone will be there to help them whenever they need assistance.
10 tips for providing outstanding internal customer service
- Give employees more than one way to reach out
- Staff your help desk so you can respond in a timely manner
- Share knowledge and resources in one place, like a help center
- Communicate next steps so employees know what to expect
- Try to understand where employees are coming from
- Monitor feedback, and follow up when you miss the mark
- Acknowledge every question, even if you can’t answer it
- Use data to identify opportunities for improvement
- Curate the right tools for your tech stack
- Make employee service part of your talent strategy
1. Give employees more than one way to reach out.
As with customers, an omnichannel approach ensures you can accommodate a wide range of needs and preferences. Your employees can choose the channel that works best for them, and you can meet them where they are–whether that’s via email, internal help center, or even a Slack integration for support requests.
2. Staff your help desk so you can respond in a timely manner.
People are accustomed to the fast responses they receive from B2C companies. To improve your response time, you need enough people on your team to handle the volume of requests you receive. A chatbot can also help an HR or IT team scale and provide immediate responses 24/7. Since bots don’t need to sleep or take lunch breaks, they can support employees when your internal service teams are off the clock.
3. Share knowledge and resources in one place, like a help center.
Another way to stem the tide of incoming requests is to make company knowledge and FAQs available in your internal help center. That way, employees can search and find answers on their own. Here’s a quick video explaining how it works:
4. Communicate next steps so employees know what to expect.
With a ticketing system, you can use business rules to automatically notify employees on the status of their request and next steps. That way, they don’t have to send follow-up emails asking for updates.
5. Try to understand where employees are coming from.
It can be frustrating when your work day is derailed by a device that’s not working or a piece of information that’s not readily available. If employees are short with you, don’t take it personally. Try to be kind and focus on finding a solution. Here are a few tips for dealing with anger at work.
6. Monitor feedback, and follow up when you miss the mark.
Despite your best efforts, there are bound to be moments when your internal service falls short of employee expectations. But this also presents a good learning opportunity to your team. Consider sending service satisfaction surveys automatically when a ticket is closed. When you receive negative feedback, follow up on the issue to make sure it’s fully resolved and share how you will do better next time.
7. Acknowledge every question, even if you can’t answer it.
Not every problem has an easy solution, but your employees deserve to be acknowledged. Leaving employees on read can send a message that you’re not listening or have something to hide. Be transparent about what you can and can’t do.
8. Use data to identify opportunities for improvement.
If you use a ticketing system for your internal help desk, you’ll be able to see ticket data and performance stats. Use help desk metrics to identify trends, like if a certain topic comes up repeatedly, that could be a sign that you should write an article about it for your help center.
9. Curate the right tools for your tech stack.
A ticketing system can help you organize requests and create workflows. You can also add third-party apps to help you move through tasks and solve problems more efficiently. A few things to look for in a help desk solution:
- AI and automation to help speed up resolution times
- Knowledge base capabilities already built in
- Customization so you can create a solution that works for your use case
- Analytics to track usage, identify trends, and measure satisfaction
10. Make employee service part of your talent strategy.
Employee engagement is at a 10-year low, and HR teams need to take action if they want to reverse this trend. Developing your internal customer service is a concrete, actionable step you can take to show your employees that you have their backs and want to help them be successful.
What is the difference between internal and external customer service?
Internal service is the support you provide for your employees.
HR teams or “People” teams typically own employee service. The IT department may also help provide internal customer service with HR or they may have a separate team dedicated to technical support questions.
Internal support teams can provide information about:
- Corporate policies: Employee handbooks, DEI guidelines, etc.
- Employee benefits: Health insurance, retirement funds, gym memberships, etc.
- Administrative: Pay stubs, tax information, expense reports, etc.
- HR functions: Onboarding, training, employee feedback, off-boarding, etc.
- Technology: Information security, device repair, troubleshooting, etc.
Internal teams may be handling sensitive information, like employees’ compensation details or personal health information. That’s why HR teams need to work closely with their counterparts in Accounting and Legal to make sure they take necessary steps to protect employee privacy and avoid liability.
External service is the support you provide for your customers.
The customer service department or CX team handles customer service. Some companies also outsource external service to a BPO call center, where a separate organization handles customer interactions on the company’s behalf.
External support teams can help with things like:
- Product FAQs: How-to guides, product specifications, materials sourcing, etc.
- Troubleshooting: How to fix a broken product, how to solve a known issue, etc.
- Returns, exchanges, cancellations: Request an exchange, get a refund, cancel a subscription, etc.
- Feedback and feature requests: Share product feedback, request new software features, etc.
Because external service is customer-facing, these teams typically have specialized training to understand how to communicate with customers and resolve issues. They also need to know de-escalation techniques for abusive customers.
Examples of internal customer service
Here are examples of the types of tools that companies can use for internal customer service.
- Setting up an email address where employees can send questions to your support team, such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Creating a help center where employees can search for answers to common questions and find up-to-date information about benefits, policies, etc.
- Building a web form where employees can describe their issue and/or choose from a drop-down menu to indicate what type of issue they’re having.
- Live chatting with an internal support team member for questions that can be answered with a quick back-and-forth.
- Using a Slack channel or Slack integration to connect with support team members who can help.
- Setting up a chatbot that can serve employees with relevant resources automatically. If they don’t find what they need, they can ask to speak to a team member directly.
- Providing a phone number where employees can call and ask to be routed to a particular team, such as IT, HR, or Accounting.
Internal customer service statistics and trends
When you look at the data, it’s easy to see a larger story unfolding about the employee experience and the future of work. The pandemic caused workers to reevaluate their priorities and consider the role that work plays in their lives. As a result, we’re seeing large numbers of workers quitting their jobs and no end in site to the uncertainty in the labor market.
Workers are increasingly dissatisfied and looking for a change.
- 1 in 4 people plan to quit their job in 2022 (ResumeBuilder.com)
- 40 percent of recent job switchers are again looking for a new position (Grant Thornton)
- 55 percent of Americans are prioritizing flexible work arrangements post-pandemic. (Bankrate)
Those who haven’t quit are burned out and disengaged from work.
- 39 percent of workers described themselves as “coasting” in one survey (CNBC/Momentive)
- 16 percent of workers in a Gallup survey reported being “actively disengaged” at work. (Gallup)
- 77 percent say they have experienced employee burnout at their current job. (Deloitte)
Internal support teams are under increased scrutiny from leadership–but they aren’t getting the support they need.
- 54 percent of internal support team members say their visibility with senior leadership is higher than ever before. (Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report)
- 60 percent of HR professionals cited recruiting and retaining workers as one of their top two challenges. (HR Executive)
- More than half of internal support teams working remotely don’t have the tools they need to be successful. (Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report)
HR teams have their own talent crisis on their hands.
- 98 percent of HR professionals have felt burned out at work in the last six months. (Workvivo)
- 43 percent of internal support team members serving corporate employees say their team isn’t treated as well as others in their organization. (Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report)
- 42 percent of internal support team managers anticipate churn rates increasing in the next year. (Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report)
Be an employee-first company
We talk a lot about putting your customers first, but the new world of work demands a new perspective. Employees are the backbone of your business, and it’s time that companies start treating their employees with the same level of care and consideration that they give to their customers. It’s time to be an employee-first company.
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