The mindset that "The customer is always right" underscores the value we place on our customers, regardless of our industry. Especially in today's economic climate, most companies recognize that their existence largely depends on how well they can engage and service customers and offer them the products or services that they need.

Yet there's another customer that often doesn't get as much attention: the internal customer. Better known as "employees" or "staff," these internal customers are often viewed by what they can deliver to you or your organization. The unfortunate result of this perception: Internal customers lack the care and feeding that is given to external customers.

At Insight, we view our internal team members as being just as valuable to our success as our external customers. We realize that they are the ambassadors of our company, and that happy, motivated team members in turn create happy external customers. So what can organizations do to engage, motivate and inspire internal team members?

  • Communication is key—start by listening. In addition to keeping team members informed through scheduled meetings and ongoing written communications, make sure that management is visible and accessible. Walk around the office and speak with your team members informally. Find out any concerns they may have and their suggestions for improving the workplace. Then work to implement them as best you can.
  • Get to know your team members, and their professional development goals and needs. Are there particular life/work challenges they are balancing? Would they benefit from more flexible hours? What types of learning opportunities interest them?
  • Create a progressive, family-friendly environment. As much as possible, try to offer a flexible work schedule to accommodate work/family balance. Since everyone has to take on more work now, try to make sure that staff members don't feel too overwhelmed or stressed.
  • Offer your team members opportunities for growth. Take an interest in their development. What do they need to do in order to grow? What new challenges can you offer them? What type of training would be helpful?
  • What technology and tools do team members need to do their jobs well? Make sure you are supporting team members and eliminating unnecessary frustrations and time-wasters.
  • Reward and recognize the great work of your team members. It's amazing how valued team members will feel when you commend and recognize them in front of their peers.
  • A successful internal customer environment depends on the mutual respect and consideration of all team members towards each other. Effective companies realize this should be part of the corporate culture, right alongside dedication to external customers. By supporting and valuing internal customers, we create a happier and more productive workplace that, in turn, promotes positive interactions with customers.