“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”
– Jerry Gregoire
Customer. A simple word carrying multiple definitions, depending on the context. From discussing the need to put human value back into the digital age equation, to planting people in the middle of all service interactions, it’s important to understand who your customers are. Who are IT’s customers? How can we define the customer in an IT and enterprise context?
Back to Basics
According to Merriam-Webster, a customer is someone who buys goods or services from a business. In a business context, we need to break down that definition further into internal and external customers.
So, typically all of IT’s customers are internal customers, right? IT is directly connected with everyone in a company (usually through equipment, hardware, and software that all employees use) and all employees of the company are directly connected with IT. Well, that may be how it was once described, but things are a little bit different in the world of IT today. And it’s not just IT anymore that are facilitating customer requests. Departments across the organizations are now service providers with internal and external customers to support. For example, Human Resources not only supports the members in its own team (internal customers), but also supports team members throughout the organization, as well as prospective employees (external customers).
Why the need to distinguish between internal and external customers?
Look to the Future
In the past, companies have focused a great deal of effort on external customers (those that buy the goods and/or services of the company) because they drive revenue and are essential to the success and survival of an organization. Additionally, companies may have formed strategic business partnerships with external customers.
The problem is that the expectation of improving business performance through people is incompatible with an internal customer model. As greater importance is placed on putting people in the middle, especially when it comes to IT and enterprise service management, an external customer model needs to be employed. IT needs to see itself as a business partner to other departments within the organization and as a leader in transforming the enterprise to a service-focused model. It can’t do that with an internal customer model in mind.
IT should lead the way in updating a customer model to create 21st century customer experiences that transform it into the business transformation powerhouse it needs to be for the enterprise.