A healthy business is one that retains happy, satisfied customers. That's true even when the customer is employed by the company. Yet many businesses who encounter their internal customers everyday are surprised when company morale is low, or department heads or functional teams have difficulties working together. Personalities aside, regularly conducting research among departmental personnel or functional groups can uncover and address operational weaknesses in the organization. Data mining internally also taps into the wealth of new business and productivity ideas fostered at all levels within companies.
What's Working and Where?
Internal company departments such as marketing, sales, HR and R&D are customers of one another on some level and at some time over the course of doing business. Give employees an opportunity to voice any issues or concerns about interdepartmental activities by posing questions in an internal survey about what is working and what is not. Survey questions are a modern replacement for a suggestion box. Query staff members about suggestions for productivity enhancements or new product ideas in internal surveys. Asking questions about the company business is a good way to learn early on about deficiencies on a production line or administrative process before costly problems result. Opinion surveys foster a deeper sense of ownership by employees in their company's products, and in the company's operations when management seeks their input and acts on information when appropriate.
Whose Star is Rising?
Surveys are an important way to gain insight into who the rising stars are in a large company. Often management might be clueless as to the movers and shakers in a department. These unsung heroes might labor anonymously for years under a supervisor who takes credit for their work. Survey questions should query departmental employees as to the names of rainmakers. By identifying corporate stars early, management is able to groom these individuals for greater responsibility within the company. This ensures professional fulfillment rather than having the employees leave the company because they were not given the development and career management that demonstrates their value to the company.
How Are We Doing?
Former New York City Mayor, Edward Koch, was known by the catchphrase he uttered during his three terms in office: "How am I doing?" It was more than just a friendly way to greet his constituency. It was a means to gauge the satisfaction of those he worked to serve. The answers he got back were not always positive. Survey questions on customer satisfaction are important to the ongoing health of a business. Negative responses indicate where a business is weak and needs to be improved. Always be open to internal customer's concerns and issues as they have a vested interest in positive outcomes. Look upon their negativity as an opportunity to improve and grow the business.
If Not Us, Who?
Query your internal customers as to who they consider your nearest competitors to be. The answers may surprise you. Often companies continue to believe their perennial competitor still reigns as a foe when employees like salespeople may give insight into upstarts who pose even greater threats. Instead of waiting for an upstart to gain a foothold, management is able to mount an offense to a new competitor instead of being on the defense and trying to catch up later. Knowing your true competition enables you to tailor your products and services to match or exceed a competitor's offerings. Only you can know your competitive set by asking your customers, "If not us, who?"
Marla Currie has written professionally since 1995. She is editor and publisher of The Urban Shopper, an online magazine whose consumerist content is targeted to Black and Latino females. In addition to short fiction, Currie is author of "The Humours of Black Life," a nonfiction work. She has a master's degree in advertising.