Tag Archives | holographic organizations

Importance Of The Internal Customer Experience

A couple days ago, Eric Jacques wrote a post called How to Listen to Your Customers which was an excellent complement to my Listening to What Isn’t Said. In the post, he made one recommendation that really struck home for me:

Everyone in your organization needs to learn how to honestly and completely listen to customers (and remember the internal customers).

In particular, it was his reminder about internal customers. How many times do we focus so intently outside the organization that we forget about the folks we serve inside? And if you don’t think you serve anyone inside your business, take some time to reconsider. We’re not talking about employees serving managers and the execs at the C-Level. We’re talking cross-functional, about departments like IT and HR. We’re also talking about the sales manager who counts on marketing to support his or her efforts. And we’re talking about the engineer who depends on product managers to relay crucial strategic info from and to customers. No matter which department you fall into or what level you’re situated within the organizational hierarchy, there’s a good bet you serve someone else inside your company at least once in a while.

Here’s the million dollar question: Does your organization have a customer experience design that includes both external and internal customers? If not, why not? Making sure your internal customers are not only satisfied but have a remarkable experience is the bedrock of smooth teamwork and operations.┬áHere are a few suggestions for creating a better internal customer experience:

Listen intently for needs and expectations. You can’t underemphasize the importance of listening. Your objective is to listen for understanding which transforms the action into an active process. Ask for clarification when necessary. Listen for what’s not said.

Help them become even better customers. When in the act of listening, don’t be a drone content with just collecting information. You know you have needs and expectations, so reveal them. And you know you have limitations so be clear about your own workload. Constantly ask yourself, “What can I do to help this individual be a better customer?”

Keep the bigger picture firmly in view. This requires an understanding of how the organization operates and your place within it. It also means that your service objectives should be in tight step with those of the whole organizations. They should resemble a bit of the holographic that I discussed a while back.

If you’re thinking that each of these suggestions can easily apply to serving external customers, then you’d be right. Any examples of organizations getting it right in terms of creating remarkable internal customer experiences?

photo credit: wonderlane (via flickr)


Monolithic and Holographic Organizations

At first, I was just going to make a short comment at Ben Martin’s blog on his latest post concerning organizations and branding. Yet, the more I thought about it and started writing I realized this is a blog post in its own right. Putting aside the dialogue on marketing, the central theme of the post is the organization as a monolithic or holographic entity. Now if you’re thinking, “I’m not interested in organizational theory and similar crap, why should I care?”…give me a second and I’ll show you why this may matter to your everyday working life.

Organization as monolith (aka no one is the organization)
This is the old-school version that no matter how much folks try to kill it, it just won’t die. It’s a vestige of our industrial society past where the top controlled everything and the workers underneath were just happy to not have their arm chewed off by the machinery that day. This concept was further set in stone with the idea of the blindly loyal organization man. In this case, the worker and newly formed middle manager were just happy to not have their head chewed off by the boss that day.

Unfortunately, the monolith as organizational model hasn’t passed into history despite the increasing evidence that it no longer serves a purpose to either the individuals working within it or the folks on the outside who purchase its services and products. How do you know whether you’re working for or dealing with a monolithic organization? Here are a few clues:

  • The monolith talks at people
  • The monolith sees people as things
  • The monolith sets rules above relationships
  • The monolith creates narrowly defined roles for people

If you see something strongly resembling an engineering mindset here, that’s not by accident. The monolithic organization is built around notions of efficiency, practicality, economy, and order. These are precisely the kinds of things that folks at the top of organizations want because they believe it makes their jobs easier. All of which is pretty much crap.

Organization as hologram (aka each person is the organization)
For us organizational leaders who understand that the 21st century calls for a different paradigm, we’re driving the movement from the concept of one to concept of the many. The power and control that used to be jealously guarded at the top is being dispersed downward and sideways to the point where the whole fixed hierarchical dynamic has become blurred and increasingly useless.

Rather than viewing an organization as a bland, uniform, static structure, consider the organization as a hologram. Within a holographic image, each section contains a complete image of the original object. So the real beauty of the holographic perspective is acknowledging that the organization is a vibrant collection of all the individuals within it. It recognizes that each individual is fully reflected in the whole. The organization is the individual and the individual is the organization. The interests of each individual and the organization are interconnected and interdependent.

This approach offers a more human organization. Coming back to the marketing and branding conversation that got this whole subject started for me, it means that there’s not one message but scores of messages that define the organization. Each person brings their own stories and relationships to the anthology that is today’s organization. And these stories evolve as the people within the organization learn, grow, and change.

Let’s recap…
If your organization is monolithic, what’s that getting you right now? Employees who give a damn about their work? Doubtful. Customers who want to buy from you? Maybe. Customers who are passionately loyal? Probably not. Just keep asking yourself what’s the price of control and what will it cost you to keep a tight hold on something that is only going to slip through your fingers eventually?