HR basics the key to customer service for internal clients

Employees are crying out for their HR departments to provide them with basic customer services support, a new study has found.

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) report, What Customers Want From HR, has revealed that internal employees want to be able to easily contact ‘real people’ in HR – without ringing through to constant voicemail – and need the HR department to respond quickly and consistently to concerns without getting bogged down in strategy.

Wendy Hirsh, researcher at the IES, told delegates at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) conference, that customers needed HR to be proactive and responsive to get the basics right.

“It is important to find out not just what your customers get but what they really want,” she said.

Leatham Green, assistant personnel and training director at East Sussex County Council, speaking at the CIPD event, agreed HR needed to market itself better to appeal to employees of all levels.

“Perception is everything in terms of what we provide. [We have to realise] it is always our fault when things go wrong – we listen to the customer when things go wrong.”

Hirsh spoke of an example with an HR director she interviewed who said her department was not there to provide “support”.

“I had to tell them ‘oh yes you are’,” said Hirsch. “This is about the basic concept of customer service, we want HR to understand the workforce as well as management [strategy].”

Michael Spears, HR partner at Sainsbury’s supermarket, said: “We can do a lot of navel gazing about whether we are strategic enough, but when you get to the nub of it, customer service is not a difficult concept for me because I work in retail.” He added: “HR is too busy doing the do and not really getting out there and showing what more we can do.”

The IES study was drawn from a series of interviews, focus groups and surveys with employees, middle management and senior teams across several organisations.

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