Session 2: Managing through internal marketing
Employees who interact directly with the organisation’s external customers can enjoy a satisfying and rewarding experience. However, responding to the often-varied requirements of external customers can also be highly stressful for customer-facing employees. Managing employees as a form of internal customer requires an understanding of the challenges that you and other employees encounter in day to day interactions with external customers.
Employees have been recognised as an essential focus for marketing theory and practice since Berry, Hensel and Burke (1976) introduced the term ‘internal marketing’ into marketing literature. There are many perspectives on the core features of an internal marketing approach. These include:
- the development of internal (employee, management and organisation) relationships
- an emphasis on communication and trust in these relationships
- the importance of knowledge sharing
- the role of leadership in creating a shared vision, values and organisational identification
- an emphasis on competence building through training and education.
Supporters of internal marketing highlight its potential to achieve organisational objectives, improving both customer and employee satisfaction. Grönroos (1981) distinguishes between strategic and tactical approaches to internal marketing. At a strategic level, this can include the adoption of supportive management styles, e.g. human resources policies and customer service training. At a tactical level, it can include ongoing training, e.g. the encouragement of formal and informal communications, such as newsletters; and internal segmentation.
Activity 4 Do employees have to be perfect?
Watch the following video, which lasts around one and a half minutes:
What do you think are the main messages in the video for managing customer–contact employees? Record your thoughts in the text box below.
Factors which you might have recorded include:
- the degree of autonomy/control/flexibility afforded to staff in responding to customers
- the training needs of employees who deal with difficult customers
- the need for support for employees who deal with difficult customers.
The goals of internal marketing are both long term and qualitative. For example, these might include ‘enhanced customer consciousness throughout the organisation’ or ‘improved market performance’. You would expect to have a number of objectives in order to achieve each goal. These would be shorter term, more specific and measurable. For example, for the former, this may include the number of customer-focused suggestions for process improvement from staff. For the latter, it might be ‘X per cent increase in market share; X per cent increase in repeat purchase or customer satisfaction’.
In order to achieve the goal of ‘successful’ internal marketing, organisations need to come up with an internal marketing plan. It is this you will look at next.