Customer Service in the Garbage Industry, Part II

A few days ago, we discussed trying another approach and not taking out our frustrations  on a customer service rep. With this Part II on customer service, I want to discuss internal customer service within the workplace and its importance. Many people forget about your internal customers and thus cause friction amongst their co-workers.

So, who are our internal customers? Well, in the solid waste industry, we have the office and the drivers, who make frequent calls to one another throughout the day. While most of the time all goes well, there are times when the office reps get frustrated with the drivers and the drivers get frustrated with the office reps. What’s new right? However, from the office perspective the drivers are their internal customers. And it takes a little longer but we remind the drivers that the office reps are there internal customer as well and we don’t treat customers poorly.

I liken it to a coach and the player We see the player fired up yelling and the coach talking. It always looks odd but one is in the battle and the other on the sideline. Well, it is the same with the office reps and the drivers. The drivers are emotionally charged up but the office is down a few levels, and this can cause friction. Only when the office understands where the driver is coming from and the driver understands the challenges in the office, can the two step up their internal customer service to communicate better.

They have to communicate to get both of their jobs done effectively. So, without having a sit down with each side, we try to solve the problem before it becomes one. It starts with the office allowing each driver to express themselves in their own way when they answer. With the office getting inside the drivers head to know they are amped up, it makes it easier to communicate, as they do not try to fight them but work with them.

But if the driver doesn’t want to play nice, no matter how charged up they are, then we have a sit down with them to remind them who their customers are in this job. I have had the drivers sit in the office for some cross training, even answering phones, so they learn what pressures the office is up against. If not, then tension occurs and we have poor communication. So, once they see each others sides they are able to provide customer service to them and not take it personal.

I find it similar to doing work for friends. If you don’t take it serious it never gets done; or if it does, it may not be the same as it would if you had charged them. So, you have to treat it professionally and overlook the petty comments. We used to have numerous fights between the drivers and office reps because of how each side was treated and both sides felt as if they could treat them poorly since they worked together. We had to have numerous meetings to hammer the point home that they are internal customers and we need to treat them that way.

For us, this approach has worked wonders because each side is able to recognize when they are being poor sports and treating their internal customers badly. the topic is out on the table and we have found ways to tear down the walls since we cannot afford to have the petty fights when trying to operate a business. It just doesn’t work and the external customer suffers. No way!

How have you approached internal customer relations amongst departments? Are both sides understanding or has it gotten intense? These issues may seem petty but they have caused numerous communication issues that I had to deal with in depth. Humans are fascinating creatures.


Author: Damon Shea

Currently, I operate a waste hauling and recycling company in Northeastern California and I am also working through an eMBA program. Per one of my courses we are emerging ourselves into social media and that is my main purpose behind blogging and all of the other social avenues that I am involved with. My blog will focus on the waste & recycling industry and any subject matter within. Born into the waste hauling business, I have been playing in and around garbage containers since a child and am not afraid to haul away what you throw out. As a leader/manager, I have found that it is the people who do the work and not the equipment, so I have focused on understanding all peoples, especially my team. About me personally, I am of Italian/Irish decent, Roman Catholic. I am the youngest of three children and am now married with a beautiful strong wife and two awesome girls. Through my job, I am a member of Rotary International and I also sit on the board of our local Chamber of Commerce. We are heavily involved with building up the community that we serve and will do all in power to make garbage and recycling an easy process. Together we can explore the myths and realities of the waste & recycling industry and perhaps still make the world a better place.

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