Volume 35, February 2004: Employees as Customers

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2004 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Communicate everything you can to your associates. The more they know, the more they care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them.” — Sam Walton

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your time here on earth.” — Muhammad Ali


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Seeing employees as customers of each other and you.
  • Hiring service-minded people.
  • Analyzing your business from the employee-customer’s perspective.
  • Providing latitute to use good judgment and resources to make each internal customer interaction a delightful experience.
  • Reinforcing interdependence, systems thinking, and alignment through a common aim.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Before you can ask people to do something, you have to help them be something. Provide people meaningful work, ensuring that service is everyone’s job. Engage everyone in your mission – ask them the question: “Why are we in business?” Without customers, there is no business. Can any one of us accomplish this alone? No, everyone counts.

Hire people who care. Maintain high standards, and create an environment in which people can grow. Train them, give them all the necessary tools, provide them feedback and recognition, and then get out of their way.

Thanks to Betsy Sanders (Fabled Service ).

Frequently Asked Questions

“I am appalled at the lack of service thinking in my company. Where do I begin?”
Answer these questions:
  • Have you told people you expect it? Giving good service should be in their job description.
  • Have you offered training on it?
  • Do your hiring and evaluation processes address it?
  • Is your organization set up to provide good internal service (policies, processes, priorities, bureaucracy,etc.)?
  • Do you truly value your employees and provide them the respect you expect them to confer to their customers?
“We are very good on external customer service. How do we get that same attitude to apply to our internal customers – that is, each other?”
First, have employees identify their internal customers, by answering this question: “If I stopped doing my job, who would it impact?” Who gets the messages they forward, the forms they complete, the reports they write, the feedback they provide, the materials they create? Then require that they dialogue with those internal customers, to gather customer knowledge. Structure questions, such as:
  • What service or product do you depend on me for?
  • Am I providing anything you don’t need or use?
  • How could I improve my service to you?
  • What could I do to delight you, not just satisfy you?

Make customer feedback part of their performance evaluation.

“As a leader, how can I serve my employees better?”
I think we have done great disservice to our employee-customers by creating unnecessary complexity and non-value-added activity. It seems we always add on, without taking things away. Look at the number of meetings and mounds of paper. The administrivia. One organization I studied had a 33-step performance appraisal process, described in a 23-page policy, with 15 additional pages of expectations. Some managers were required to complete this process on as many as 40 direct reports, at the same time every year. And if they weren’t done on time, everyone’s raises were held up. Take a day and walk in their moccasins. Or at least, ask for their feedback on this matter.



  • But I Don’t Have Customers, American Media, Inc. (1997) – 21 min.
  • The Hidden Customer: Internal Customer Service, Salinger (1989) – 19 min.
  • We’re on the Same Team, Remember? CRM Films (1996) – 20 min. (available through LearnCom, 1-800-824-8889)

Customer Service training and products: Customer Service Training

Training solutions: seminars, DVDs, online materials: Business Training Media

Key Associates offers one-day, on-site training linking quality to customer service: Customer Service Course. A specialized version, directed to internal customers, is available.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Customer Service Group.

International Customer Service Association.

Customer Service Network.

Find out why good employees walk: Employee Attraction.


  • Anderson, K. Great Customer Service on the Telephone. NYC: Amacon, 1992.
  • Anderson K. and Zemke, R. Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service. NYC: Amacon, 1992.
  • Bell, Ship R. Customers as Partners: Building Relationships That Last. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1996.
  • Bell, Chip and Zemke, R. Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service. NYC: Amacon, 1998.
  • Brinkman, Rick and Rick Kirschner. Dealing With People You Can't Stand. New York: McGraw Hill, 1994.
  • Cannie, J.K. with Caplin, D. Keeping Customers For Life. NYC: Amacon, 1991.
  • Connellan, T.K. and Zemke, R. Sustaining Knock Your Socks Off Service. NYC: Amacon, 1993.
  • Desatnik, Robert L. & Detzel, Denis H. Managing to Keep the Customer. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.
  • Gale, Bradley T. Managing Customer Value: Creating Quality and Service That Customers Can See. The Free Press, 1994.
  • Kano, N., Seraku N., Takahashi F. & Tsuji, S. “Attractive Quality and Must-be Quality.” Quality 14:2, 39-48, 1984.
  • Karr, Ron & Don Blohowiak. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Great Customer Service. New York: Alpha Books/MacMillon, 1997.
  • Leebov, Wendy, Scott, Gail & Olsen, Lolma. Achieving Impressive Customer Service. Chicago: AHA Press, 1998.
  • Sanders, Betsy. Fabled Service. San Diego: Pfeiffer. 1995.
  • Yager, Jan. Business Protocol: How to Survive & Succeed in Business. Stamford, CT: Hannacroix Creek Books, 2001.
  • Zeithaml, V. & Others. Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations. New York: The Free Press, 1990.


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