Working With Internal Clients

We all work with clients in our professional life. There is a large number of us who work with external clients – the kind we generate our revenue from; for a large number of us, however, the clients are internal to our organization. These internal clients may then work with the external client directly or the chain may be longer.

Is there a difference in dealing with the two? To begin with, let us talk about the similarities – in both cases, we need to address product quality, service quality, engagement levels, ROI for the client, and the ilk. I cannot think of many significant parameters that would not apply to the internal client.

However, there are significant parameters that need to be considered in addition when dealing with internal clients:

  • Captive Relationship  With internal clients, the relationship is in captive mode.  The client is forced to accept the service from you.  This breeds complacency.  As Google also says, complacency leads to a reduction in the motivation to improve – something we need to be very careful of.
  • Benchmarking  As the relationship is captive, there is no competition to benchmark onself against.  You need to develop a very clear structure of KPIs and SLAs along with your client which will allow you to measure and track you performance and it’s progress.  Without these objective measurements, ROI calculations and other benefit statements will be difficult to determine.  This will replace the pricing and product feature/range efforts that determine success in a competitive environment.
  • Strategy  As part of the same organization, both you and your internal client will be part of the same strategy framework.  In your day to day offerings, you need to defend the principles of this strategy.  This means standing up and saying no when the client requests go in a different direction.  This is tougher with internal clients since you can’t just “walk away”.

In essence, working with internal clients can be more challenging in certain areas, demanding external clients notwithstanding.  Well, are we 9-to-whatevers up for it?

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5 thoughts on “Working With Internal Clients

  1. Yaa its difficult to handle internal customers. Pressure is very high to complete the job on time with good results. Internal clients expectations are high and they know being internal customer they can ask for change in specifications. And you cannot say NO to them bcz you are also having pressure from your management to satisfy internal customer.

  2. Manu – Interested in your insights. What have you done to make it better? Have any of the actions in the post helped? Do you have further suggestions or insights on improving our ability to handle these demands?

  3. Commitment : Never over commit. Always commit less than what you can provide.
    Status : Give status to client on time to time basis so they know exact status. If there is delay then let them know also.

  4. Great post, sums up well!

    From the vendor (internal) side I don’t have anything to add. On the same topic though, from my brief experience I think the consumer/customer also need to have a different mindset while working with internal teams/vendors. Some of the key issues which a team working with internal vendors must focus on are –

    * Transparency – Unlike an external vendor an internal team works for the same org and hence is aligned to the same goals. Although both teams are driven by independent parameters like ROI, SLAs etc, it is always nice to apprise the upstream team of the larger goals or the motive behind the task and hand rather than the “getting-the-work-done” approach. I agree that even in case of external vendors, a minimum level of transparency is required; the difference I am trying to point here is that the bar can be set much higher when working with internal teams.

    * Synergy vs Competition – The key advantage of insourcing (theoretically) as against outsourcing is the value a company can derive of synergies. Sadly this value is sometimes -ve. This is an attitude problem (one-of case may be) where the customer perceives his (or his team’s) job superior to that of the vendor. I understand that a healthy competition is good in the value chain, as long as both teams keep organization’s interest above theirs/teams.

    My views may be limited to my experience, but having worked with internal customers more often and also from both sides of the value chain I felt the compulsion to post :).

    • Aniruddha – All views are limited by the individual’s experience – please do not consider that a limitation.

      Transparency – I think transparency is critical to any situation. What I find interesting is your callout on the level of transparency that can be achieved internally vs. externally. I think that is one mitigating factor that I did not consider. Unfortunately, the power of this is not always used, from my experience.

      On the synergy vs. competition, the clients viewpoint has a large impact – which will go in the same direction, whether an internal or an external support team is used.

      Thanks for your views and your compliment.

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