What's the difference between internal and external customer service?

  • 27 August 2021
  • 2 replies

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In your opinion, what’s the difference between internal and external customer service?  

Here is how I differentiate the two, but I’d love to know if you see it differently.  Please let me know if I’m way off the mark here, and if so, how! Thanks--Micah


• On the one hand, internal and external customer service are the same at their heart.  One of my favorite comments on this matter is from Lisa Holladay, who formerly helmed the iconic Ritz-Carlton hotel brand: “The wow stories we’re so famous for delivering for our [external] customers? We also have wow stories that happen for other Ladies and Gentlemen [employees]. We’re not famous for these because they’re internal, but I hear many times that ‘the reason I stay with the brand (as an employee) is the way that other Ladies and Gentlemen help me. When my wife was coming through surgery, my friends stocked my fridge and helped me with the driving; my work colleagues are some of the most hospitable people in my personal life as well.’

• However, they’re not the same as far as superficialities. Why? External customers are inherently the “out group,” while we within the company are always going to be the “in crowd.” The same elements that bind us together (shared jargon, internal traditions) that we avoid as off-putting to an external customer can be very important to honor in internal customer service. Conversely the formalities that are important to observe with someone who is essentially (at least at first) a stranger don’t always make sense when interacting with a colleague.


Micah Solomon 

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Author • ​Forbes Senior Contributor • Customer Service Consultant

President and CEO, Four Aces Inc. 


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2 replies

And, happier internal customers is equivalent to more satisfied external customers? 

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Great question/comment, Nandita! Absolutely.  If the people you serve inside your company (your internal customers) are receiving great service, it powers them to give better service to THEIR customers.  Many studies show this to be true.