We typically think about customer relationship management (CRM) as a technical function, but CRM really involves much more than powerful software.

CRM includes gaining the attention of our customers, patrons, students, and citizens. After bringing them through our doors, we provide a quality product or service, and wish to succeed in bringing them back when they need our services again.

This delicate process may include internet and print advertising, coupons, loyalty programs, point systems, birthday and anniversary greetings, expert commentary, and new products geared toward bringing customers back. Incentives are important to the customer relationship, but there is nothing more critical than the customer experience with our employees.

CRM therefore includes vital human factors involved in the relationships that we build and maintain with external as well as internal customers. External customers are the people who pay the bills, since they both choose and use our products or services. Internal customers are the “people assets” within our organizations who provide a product or service to external customers or who support others in doing so. A positive experience by both customer groups is crucial to our existence. Keep in mind that internal customer experience affects external customer service.

Every customer appreciates a sense of respect, service, and safety all the time. All of our contacts with customers need to involve these guiding principles, even when it is difficult to do.

Let's take a closer look at what these concepts mean:
  • Respect involves treating others with courtesy and preserving their dignity.
  • Service involves meeting commitments and maintaining professionalism.
  • Safety involves preventing and responding to danger, risk, or injury.

Many employees are well versed in providing both customer groups with a quality experience. This is relatively easy to do when customers are kind and sensitive to our needs. It is much more difficult when they are not.

We may face difficult, challenging, disruptive, and even dangerous behavior in our work every day. This may involve harassment, conflict, intimidation, incivility, disrespect, verbal aggression, and even violence.

Such behaviors can be exhibited by either external or internal customers, and they might occur at any time. Frustrated employees become irrational under the pressures of work. Angry customers threaten employees with lawsuits for their perception of unfair practices. A customer screams at an employee about his right to a free product or more points. An employee smokes in a nonsmoking area. Service staff report being fed up with what they have to clean up day in and day out. An employee's intimate partner makes rude and offensive remarks at a social function sponsored by your organization. Security officers remove a customer who has clearly had too much to drink.

The manner in which employees manage such difficult situations is what sets organizations apart. Respect, service, and safety may be the last things that come to our minds under these and similar circumstances. Professional behavior remains essential to these more challenging areas of customer relationship management. The concepts and skills taught in CPI's Prepare Training® program can guide our thinking, decisions, and actions in challenging and potentially dangerous situations.

Top management commitment to these principles is vital so that a philosophy of Respect, Service, and Safety at Work® cascades through every area of an organization's work culture.

Organizations can further demonstrate the values taught in CPI's Prepare Training® program by:

  • Adopting and implementing policies and procedures that clearly outline expectations for all levels of the organization regarding respectful, service-oriented, and safe interactions at all times with both external and internal customers.
  • Providing skill-building training that will help employees demonstrate respect in all interactions, provide quality service even in the most difficult circumstances, and respond to disruptive and violent situations that impact workplace safety.
  • Implementing an ongoing Training Process that provides education and practice in translating these values into everyday behavior at work.
  • Empowering employees to apply these training concepts realistically within their specific work environments.                                                                                                                                                    

Everybody wins in a work environment in which they feel valued and cared for. Workplace cultures need to demonstrate Respect, Service, and Safety at Work®—even when this is difficult to do. This is a critical factor in customer relationship management.


This article was adapted from an article originally published in Indian Gaming:
Badzmierowski, William F. (2006). Respect, Service, and Safety: Everybody Wins. Indian Gaming, 16 (7). Retrieved 6/3/2012 from indiangaming.com/istore/Jul06_Badzmierowski.pdf