I spent most of last week teaching customer service classes at Baylor Medical Center in Frisco.  For the last nine years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with them to help build a culture of service.  Having gone through the last two months in the hospital with Evan, I certainly had a different perspective of what it takes to provide great service in a hospital.  They have more than doubled in size since I started working with them, and their customer service scores are phenomenal.  Why then would they continue to have customer service training?   Because they know that getting complacent is the fastest way to lose the culture they have worked so hard to create.

I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some very successful, high performing teams, across multiple fields and disciplines.  I have come to realize is that regardless of industry, most people do a pretty good job of providing service to the external customer.  It’s the internal customer that’s a problem.  The challenge is that we spend 70% of the time we are awake at work.  That means we spend more time with the people we work with than we do our own family.  The biggest mistake we make is not considering our co-workers our customers.

So how do you apply the same levels of customer service to your colleagues that you would to the external customer?  Here are 7 strategies that can improve your internal customer service and working relationships:

1.  What’s their W.I.I.F.M.? Everyone is motivated… by something.  Some people seem to be motivated to do as little as possible, but we are all motivated by something.  If you know what drives someone, you can tap into what already motivates them.    Pay attention to their interests and make an effort to build relationships.  At the very least, you can figure out what de-motivates them and stop doing it.

2. Service is an attitude. While skills like paraphrasing, listening and de-escalating conflict are important, all the skills in the world won’t help you if your heart and mind aren’t in the right place.  If you see helping others as a chore or obligation, regardless of the amount of training you go through, you won’t provide great service.

3. Own it. It’s easy to give excuses, blame a different department, or throw someone under the bus.  It’s another thing to take ownership, even if it’s not convenient.  Even if you didn’t break it, you can certainly help fix it.

4.  You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting. I’m not sure who coined that phrase, but its genius.  The best athletes, teams, and organizations got that way because they never stop trying to improve.   Aging is inevitable, but growth is optional.  Are you trying to find ways to continuously improve?

5. Daniele Vare said, “diplomacy is the art of letting people get your way”.  Rather than convincing someone else they’re wrong, find ways to accomplish the goal or achieve the solution while helping them save face.  You don’t have to prove someone wrong in order for you to be right.

6. If enough people tell you you’re tired, maybe it’s time to lie down. I met someone who said, “I’m really a very positive person.  I don’t understand why everyone I work with thinks I’m so negative?”  Remember, perception is reality.  People form opinions based on what they see.  You might know your intent is positive, but others might assume differently.  Be conscious and deliberate about creating the perceptions you want people to have.  I learned a great new quote last week, “People perceive you the way they treat you.”

7. Ask questions and make statements.  Don’t attack, don’t defend. When situations escalate, our natural inclination is to continue to try to explain our point of view.  Unfortunately, we continue to raise our level of intensity to match that of the other person, and pretty soon, we’ve created an upward spiral.  Stephen Covey introduced the idea of trying to understand rather than being understood.  Instead of continuing to explain your idea, stop and ask questions like: “I want to make sure we’re on the same page.  Can you help me understand where you’re coming from”?  Or “I’m trying to understand.  Are you saying that (insert paraphrase here)”?  It’s a good way to show them you are making a genuine effort to communicate and understand their point of view.

Unfortunately, there is no formula that works to resolve conflict every time or to create perfect service experiences.  Providing exceptional service to internal and external customers takes work, practice, and most of all, desire.  The key is to remember is that service is not just a skill set; it’s a mindset.


  1. I like those 7 strategies.

    I work on a floor of cubicles. For as much as they may have to offer, which I suppose is office space, it seems to me that they contribute to compartmentalization and fragmentation of a team which detracts from a positive work culture. I think work culture has to be a #1 priority in order for it to be addressed properly within an organization. Obscuring our view is not the same as privacy and confidentiality. I agree that work, practice, and desire for internal and external customer service needs to be a mindset.

  2. This is good, Anne. I plan to share this with my staff this week. “People percieve you the way they treat you.” That is a powerful insight.

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