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Senior Correspondent

"Be a yardstick of quality.  Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected."  Steve Jobs

In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. first published in 1982, became an international best-seller and catapulted Peters to rock star status.

Peters and Waterman studied the leadership and management practices of 42 companies with an excellent track record. They boiled their findings down to 8 key practices, each one described in its own chapter.

My favorite chapter, Close to the Customer, reminds readers about why we do what we do — Customers! The authors discovered that the companies they studied placed a huge amount of attention on their customers. Good Stuff, right? We all know how important our customers are, no matter what our business or organization's mission is.

What often gets overlooked is the importance of our internal customers, the folks we work with on a daily basis who receive our output. Turns out that the best way to consistently provide our paying customers with what they need at a competitive price is to find ways to improve how we serve our internal customers. They in turn can better serve their internal customers, who will then be able to serve their internal customers, and so on to the end of the supply chain. In this way, internal customer care ultimately translates into great service for the external customer and keeps our costs low.

It's easy to get the cart before the horse on this one. When we fail to connect as internal customers, we can experience these symptoms in the workplace for starters.

  • Blame
  • Complaining
  • Not my job
  • Re-work
  • Quality and productivity issues
  • Focusing on "They" instead of "We" when there are problems.
  • Ball dropping.
  • Jumping through hoops to handle customer requirements.

One of the best ways to assure that our customers consistently have an excellent experience with our company or organization is to help our employees connect with one another as internal customers and suppliers. Focusing each employee on doing their best for their internal customer every day in every way not only creates a great experience for our paying customers, but it also creates a positive, productive work culture. A culture that causes employees to do their best work every day. And, when folks leave work, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that they have done their best, that they did something good each day.

Peters and Waterman had it right. We need to be close to our customer. We need to become close to our internal customers so that we can learn to excel in what they need most to do their best work. 

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