How internal marketing leads to improved customer satisfaction

The shift from consumer goods marketing to relationship management and experience management over the past decade has led to many organisations – specifically service organisations – placing a stronger emphasis on relationship management principles.

Within the relationship management paradigm, partnerships or ‘joint ventures’ form the dominant model in managing the interface between the organisation and the customer. The most important relationship in this model is with the external customer; the aim being to improve the customer’s experience and, ultimately, their level of customer satisfaction.

Customer perceptions of service quality are based on interactions with employees

However, due to the intangible nature of services, service organisations have come to realise that in order to successfully deploy customer satisfaction strategies, they must recognise the existence of the internal market or employee market. This is because customer perceptions of service quality are based on their interaction with service employees, making the employee the only tangible evidence of service quality and the brand itself.

Relationship management suggests that organisations have moved away from ‘share of wallet’ to ‘share of heart’. This strongly emphasises the bond between internal and external customers on an emotional level and moves beyond the functional value of the service to an emotional level in which the relationship between co-workers and departments is governed by friendship, passion, purpose and mutual respect.

From a relationship-management perspective, strong internal relationships between internal customers and internal suppliers, therefore, become critical to success. When strong friendship bonds exist internally, employees are motivated and willing to share knowledge with co-workers. This enables internal suppliers to serve their internal customers well – ultimately leading to higher levels of internal service quality. HR for Humans, a study conducted by Deloitte, shows that service organisations with stronger internal collaboration networks outperform organisations that function more independently. Rich data suggests that organisations that encourage employees to spend time together and build a network of internal partners within the organisation will be far more successful than those that do not.

The best approach to creating strong internal relationships and higher levels of employee engagement

One of the most effective methods is through internal marketing. Internal marketing treats the employee as the internal customer and applies external marketing practices internally – such as understanding employee needs, developing compelling employee value propositions and creating great employee experiences. The role of internal marketing involves far more than the satisfaction of employees; it highlights the need for cross-functional coordination across employees and business units and higher levels of teamwork in order to achieve customer satisfaction.

Teamwork is required for the effective transfer of knowledge, which then generates new ideas and ensures that the organisation’s culture can be maintained or improved. Collaborative relationships can also be viewed as a source of social and organisational support to the employee market. It is this support that enhances commitment and teamwork by giving employees a sense of pride in belonging to the organisation. Employees feel that they are part of a successful team and believe they are making an important contribution, which is expected to lead to higher levels of commitment and high levels of employee satisfaction. This in turn translates into service excellence, great customer experiences, increased customer loyalty and, ultimately, higher profits to the organisation.

How to create a more internally market-orientated culture in order to support a market-orientated organisation

Step 1: Listen to employees’ needs: Organisations spend huge sums of money on understanding customer needs through extensive research. To become a truly customer-orientated organisation, time and resources need to be spent on understanding the internal customer, namely the employee and their needs. Understand the good, the bad and the ugly and where gaps lie between departments that impact the internal value chain.

Step 2: Acknowledge these needs: These needs must be acknowledged and shared across the organisation so that an awareness exists of dominant needs. Employees feel cared for when their needs are taken seriously and shared.

Step 3: Respond to employees’ needs It’s imperative that the organisation now finds solutions to meet employee requirements. This can be achieved through employee engagement initiatives and by involving employees in generating solutions. When organisations respond to employees’ needs, they feel valued and in terms of reciprocity theory feel compelled to reward the organisation with more positive behaviours – such as going above and beyond to provide service quality and provide great customer experiences.

Motivated and engaged employees = greater customer satisfaction

The purpose of internal marketing is to concentrate on the internal relationship between employees and the organisation in order to ensure that employees are motivated and engaged and effectively managed to create a strong customer orientation. This will therefore ensure that customers receive higher levels of service quality resulting in increased customer satisfaction and retention.