I’d like to tell you that the authors my company serves are our most important customers. If I did, it would be (mostly) true. Our company would not exist if not for the amazing authors who partner with us to build their online influence.
But like every business, my company serves both internal and external customers. In order to serve our external customers effectively, I must first attend to the internal customers I serve — my team of subcontractors and their families.
I serve an internal customer when Sierra accompanies her mama to work. While her mom works on office tasks or runs errands, Sierra carefully nestles my daughter’s dolls among the books on my office shelves. She sits paging through a book or uses a page from the reams of scrap paper our work creates to draw a picture. Sierra likes to raid my candy jar, and I am happy to share, as long as her mom says yes.
I serve an internal customer when I remind my daughters to place nicely with Sydney while her mom loads up books to ship to bloggers. Or when I bounce and snuggle Aubrey while her mom and I talk to potential clients on a conference call.
I serve an internal customer when I buy dinner for the family of a subcontractor who spent all day packing and shipping books.
I serve an internal customer when I reach out to Frank on Twitter, and let him know how much I appreciate his wife’s work.
When Emersyn sings in the background of a Skype call, I turn on my camera to wave and smile.
The spouses, children, and partners of the Weaving Influence Team are important internal customers because their spouses/children/partners are working hard to serve our external customers. If we are all going to work at our best, we must do so in the context of our larger lives, attending to our most important relationships.
To serve the important others in my subcontractors lives, I esteem the team as my most important internal customers.
To serve my most important internal customers, I offer flexibility — we work flexibly so that life and work can fit together seamlessly.
To serve my most important internal customers, I offer empathy — life and emergencies happen: illness, meltdowns, field trips, milestones.
To serve my most important internal customers, I offer choice — subcontractors choose how much to work and on which projects. We discuss possibilities and dreams. What work would you love doing? What would you like to learn? Although I cannot always match desires and assignments exactly, I do my best to help people find the right fit. Or if it’s not a fit, they are free to choose something else.
Although I spend most of my days attending to our external customers, our internal customers are always on my mind, providing purpose and motivation. I work hard to grow our company so that this work is a blessing to our subcontractor team and their families.
Tell me something! Who are the important customers you serve? How can you balance attending to your external customers while valuing and supporting the internal ones?
This post is in celebration of National Customer Service Week, which we are celebrating with Chip Bell. Check out his latest book, 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service and buy a copy or two for your favorite people.