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Posted: June 10, 2013

The all-important internal customer: Part 1

The key to business success

Timothy LaMacchio

Every organization delivers a product or service to their external customer.  Delivering this product or service --- and accomplishing other business goals --- requires functions or departments with different objectives to do something difficult: combine their unique expertise.

With cross-functional collaboration between teams and internal customers critical to business success, managers and professional must:

  • Identify their internal customers
  • Understand the impact the relationship with their internal customers has on the business
  • Take action to create a productive partnership with their internal customers

These are tasks all professionals and managers must engage to work effectively with their internal customers.

Whether you are a manager or individual contributor, you must first identify your internal customers. To do this, ask these questions of the teams and/or individuals you (or your team) work most closely:

Is their work and success dependent on your (or your team’s) work?

Do they rely on your (or your team’s) work to do their job successfully?

Are you (or your team) “supplying” something they need to do their job?

Do you (or your team) have knowledge, skills, and/or expertise they lack?

Is their effectiveness dependent upon your (or your team’s) effectiveness?

Do they have complaints about your (or your team’s) work?

A “yes” to any of these questions indicates an internal customer. Your internal customers are the individuals and/or teams that depend on your knowledge, skills, and/or expertise to do their job successfully.

Key Learning:

  • Your relationship with an internal customer is based on mutual reliance.
  • The success of your internal customer is dependent upon your (or your team’s) work.
  • A productive partnership with an internal customer is a two-way relationship.

Think about these questions:

What common conflicts and problems arise in your relationships with internal customers?

Why is it important to define clear roles and responsibilities with your internal customer?

Timothy LaMacchio is the owner of A Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, he works with organizations to connect everyday “desk-level” work to strategic business goals. Tim solves a problems root cause --- not just the symptoms.  His practical solutions develop people and the environment people need to perform. Tim's work is about providing new knowledge and skills and achieving business results. Contact Timothy at or 303.917.5775

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