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“Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer”– Macy’s Motto

In today’s economy, most people would agree that providing excellent customer service is vital to a company’s success. When most people think of customer service they think of external customers who buy the company’s products or services. Many of us don’t consider our co-workers our customers; however, they are our internal customers.

Although many companies stress the importance of giving extraordinary customer service to external customers, they must also realize that there is great value in exceptional internal customer service. Everyone plays a role in customer service. Most of us don’t realize that the way we treat one another at work ultimately impacts our external customers. It even affects our sense of well being.  Often, we don’t exceed expectations with our colleagues because we don’t realize the significance.

In reality, it is a lot easier to create loyal external customers when the company’s internal customers are cared for and supported – the better the relationships between internal staff, the more positive the effect on the external customer. Treating colleagues with kindness also has a beneficial impact on the giver; people feel better about themselves when they act with kindness. Basically, how one treats their co-workers matters.

When I conduct training seminars at various companies, within a few minutes I can feel whether or not employees like working there. There is a certain positive energy that is noticeable. And, if I can feel it, I’m sure the company’s external customers can recognize it as well.

Most people don’t tend to think of their colleagues as customers but, in the same way that I am the customer of the I.T. department I call for help with my computer, the co-worker who asks me for a report is my customer. For those in leadership and management roles, their internal customers also include those who report to them.

For these leaders, studies show it is imperative that they treat employees with dignity and respect. Numerous studies suggest that employees who feel supported, valued as a person, appreciated for their contributions and listened to by their leader, will be far more loyal and productive. As Brady G. Wilson talks about in his book “Love at Work,” employees who feel the love from their leader feel more energized and that energy translates into results.

My friend worked at a company who had a president that understood the concept of being “of service” to his employees. Every day, he would take time out of his busy schedule to walk around the office and talk to every single one his employees, whether they were a manager or worked in the mail room. He would ask the single mother about her sick daughter, he would laugh and joke with everyone, and, during particularly stressful times, he would bring in treats. In short, he showed his internal customers he cared. Employees loved him and, consequently, were incredibly devoted and hard-working.

At the simplest level, both our external and internal customers have the same basic needs. They want to be understood. They want to feel important. They want to feel appreciated. I challenge all of us to take a look at how we treat our colleagues. Do we make them feel understood, important and appreciated? Do we lend a sympathetic ear or take a moment to assist a co-worker who is feeling frazzled and stressed? Are we kind to those who act in an unpleasant manner?

Sometimes all it takes to make someone’s day is giving them a genuine compliment or writing a note of thanks. It could be as easy as helping when their computer or photocopier isn’t working. Or, it could be treating them to a cup of coffee.

As Lewis Caroll says, “one of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” In business and in life, we get what we give. Giving kindness and serving others develops our character, builds harmonious relationships and propels us forward in unimaginable ways. When we give more of ourselves, we prosper. So, seize opportunities today to astonish both your internal and external customers and reap the benefits tomorrow.