The internal customer is sometimes overlooked, but in reality should be our most important asset in providing the positive experience our external customer expects. Keeping your employees in the loop, understanding what they need to be successful in their job and listening to their feedback gives you a wealth of insight to build a strong culture, informed employees and happy internal and external customers.

Form an Internal Communications Strategy

Many years ago I worked for Chrysler in Auburn Hills, Michigan. My job was to promote new design technology (IBM CATIA) to the designers and engineers for the Body and White division. The company recognized that by investing in their internal customer they would save time, improve efficiency, reduce errors and build a superior product. Using qualitative and quantitative primary research—mainly listening behind the scenes to evaluate data of current product usage and talking to the internal customer directly—an internal communication strategy was formed. Using traditional marketing mediums and communication channels—unique branding, video, intranet, email, lunch and learns, trinkets and contests—we were able to see the movement of new functionality usage within a short amount of time and even bring a little excitement to the design floor.

Build a Strong Culture

Another opportunity to see the impact of keeping your internal customer informed and engaged was when I worked with the Bluegrass Hospitality Group in Lexington, Kentucky to develop and launch their loyalty program. A huge aspect of our tremendous growth and success was because we spent so much time listening to our internal customer to figure out what they needed to do their job, provide the right training through their internal Culture of Excellence to provide exceptional customer service and meet the requirements to register new BHG Rewards members at the same time. 

Elise Menold, former Marketing Director, recalls “there was a group of team members that would collaborate and write funny/short skits that we would then film and edit and piece together into a little show that resembled the SNL weekend update skits. We introduced loyalty program updates, specials, new rules/protocols, seasonal information, uniform guidelines, everything.” The videos were distributed through their internal email newsletter using Salesforce Marketing Cloud (ExactTarget at the time).

BHG Rewards

Using a contest, a team member focus group, internal email newsletter and weekly meetings, this local restaurant group received national recognition in 2010 and 2012 from the Colloquy Loyalty Awards. BHG Rewards earned a database of over 68,000+ members in less than 24 months with 41% of members showing consistent activity and growth in frequency of visits from year to year. 

Achieve Long-Term Results

A&W Restaurants will be celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2019. Liz Bazner and Spencer Barrett, their digital marketing team, distribute the NewsBearer bi-weekly, their internal email newsletter, keeping their internal audience, franchise owners and employees informed of upcoming events, operational changes and anything else ‘delicious.’ They publish a blog titled Franchise News directed to their internal audience and they connect in person with franchise owners on a regular basis. Impressively, four days a year each employee at the A&W Restaurant Support Center has to tie on an apron, swap their dress shoes for something slip-resistant and pull a shift in one of our restaurants. We know that as a franchisee-owned brand, it’s vital for everyone in our organization to understand what it’s like to work day-to-day in an A&W.*

A&W is reaching new levels of growth with store openings across the US as well as longevity of franchise ownership. Again – they will be 100 years old!


“Our newsletter (the NewsBearer) has become our primary source of communication within our organization and with our franchise and vendor partners. Prior to the newsletter, we were physically printing dozens of documents, stuffing them into envelopes and then sending them out by post, which was not an efficient use of time or cost-wise. Now we’re able to send out information quickly for a really low cost. It’s also great to be able to segment our send list in multiple ways. We’ve got a list of just franchisees, a list of vendors, lists of people who’ve attended meetings and conventions, and so forth. Whenever a new franchisee joins the A&W family one of the first things we do is sign them up for the newsletter—often before they’ve even opened their restaurant!”

Liz Bazner, Digital Manager, A&W Restaurants, Inc.

Close the Gaps

Lexington Podiatry, a small company with 23 employees, uses an ongoing customer experience survey created in SurveyGizmo and triggered after each patient appointment by their email marketing platform, CampaignMonitor.

Originally the survey was a way to organically and ethically collect Google Reviews; now it is the force that drives their strong internal culture and propels their customer service efforts.

The collected survey data is transformed into a visual dashboard using Klipfolio (below) to monitor the service received while in the waiting room and the treatment room by both physicians and office staff. Elise Hinchman, Marketing Director, uses this dashboard to communicate strengths, weaknesses, growth, trends, and opportunities for the administrative staff every Tuesday during their internal meeting. Being able to monitor patient feedback consistently, over time, validates necessary changes to be executed that are best for the customer. The LexPod squad makes taking care of feet fun for both the internal customer and the external customer!

Health care is going to a satisfaction based model.  If a patient is not satisfied they are not going to come back.”

—Elise Hinchman, Marketing Director, Lexington Podiatry

Email Marketing Makes Things Happen

In all of these examples, email has been the consistent channel used to improve the customer experience. Take advantage of your ESP capabilities and communicate on a regular basis to your internal customer. Send surveys for feedback about what they are seeing and hearing from customers, share company news, employee-related stories, marketing trends, successes and even failures. The content you share will keep them present with your company culture, long-term efforts and lead to independence in answering customer questions and provide exceptional service when you need it most.

Recommended Read

The size of your company should not matter in how you take care of your external customer, but your internal customer—your team member, employee, volunteer, and even freelance vendor, does. An excellent book to read is, “The Mission, the Men, and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commander” by Pete Blaber.

Pete is a former Delta Force Commander but also a former corporate director at Amgen. The comparison of his experience in the military searching for known terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, to leading a team of sales managers at Amgen is fascinating. In essence, it does not matter what your task is; To progress, it’s essential to listen to and support those in the trenches every day.