I’ve just completed Module 1 of a Customer Experience (CX) programme with a client and was reminded again of a vital – but too often overlooked – aspect of delivering exceptional experiences for our customers.

No matter what we do to create memorable experiences externally, it all falls down if we don’t first address our internal customers – our colleagues within our team and those other departments within our business upon whom we rely to do our jobs the best we can.

If someone assisting customers in a shopfront environment pops out to the warehouse to check on the availability of a part and gets told to p*** off, what likelihood is there that they’ll return to their customer with a positive attitude and a cherry smile? Or if a manager (not leader!) publicly berates a staff member for making an error, what are the chances they and anyone else who witnessed the dressing down will be in the headspace to deliver beyond expectation to their external customers?

Richard Branson’s was famously quoted as saying “ If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.” The message is clear – treat your people with respect, empathy and genuine caring and they’ll do the same for your customers.

And this doesn’t just apply to those who lead others – it could easily be broadened to anyone working with others within their organisation (and who doesn’t?). If we realise we’re all working towards common goals and we all contribute to the achievement of those goals in the range of roles people have across the business, then it’s incumbent on everyone to operate from the mindset of ‘how can I help my colleagues to best achieve their goals?’. If we can then learn the skill-set to apply that mindset in a real way every day, we’ll have a massive edge over our competitors – because most don’t!

It might be an oversimplification (but not much!) to say that if we create an environment where our people feel respected, supported and enabled, there’s a high chance they’ll treat their colleagues – their internal customers – the same way. And if that happens, you don’t need to focus much on delivering exceptional experiences for your external customer – it will happen almost by default!