Understanding the importance of Internal Customer Relations

Internal customers Relations are a relatively new concept.

The Supply Chain and Procurement/Purchasing in particular primarily exist to support internal stakeholders who in essence are their customers.

A standard mistake made time and again within professional supply chain from rank and file to management,  is the underestimation of importance of those “internal customers” too which Procurement and Purchasing  is answerable too.

Another common but all too human mistake is to favour certain internal customers, often sales or production over others, for a wide and diverse range of motivations. This often more than not leads to resentment, squabbles and unmanageable, non- professional internal customer relations and management thereof.

In many cases of personal experience within Procurement and Purchasing, I have been told by the rank and file staff (and sometimes management) of various client Purchasing operations that they did not know who their internal customers were, that they had any (only Sales has customers!!), they weren’t particularly interested (sad but true), or they had a total miscomprehension as to who those customers might be.

Internal customers of Procurement and Purchasing depending on your specific organisation may include some, all but of course by no means are limited to:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Manufacturing
  • Finance
  • Quality Assurance
  • Research & Development
  • Logistics & distribution
  • Engineering & Design
  • Executive Management
  • Information Technology
  • Service Departments


Some principle factors to ensure satisfactory internal relationships are thru:

  • Regular communication and internal stakeholder meetings to ascertain needs, expectations etc.
  • Keeping all departmental staff appraised of the outcomes of these meetings and communication sessions.
  • To maintain an “open door”” and mutually friendly policy of collaboration with other key stakeholders.
  • Ensuring equality and respect within the relationships with other stakeholders.
  • To have the empowerment to stand you’re your ground when you feel that certain boundaries have been overstepped in those internal customer relationships.
  • To recognise early areas where potential problems may arise, and to then work towards solving those problem potentials early enough, before they do become a problem.
  • Always be holistically informed and knowledgeable within the overall plans and ambitions of the stakeholders, corporation, and what is possible concerning Procurement/Purchasing deliverables.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Always ensure that you have stakeholder expectations for Procurement/Purchasing and your deliverables documented and benchmarked.
  • Eliminate any attitude of indifference to internal customers within your department.
  • Keep personal feelings out of customer relations, and not to come across as dictatorial.

I believe most Procurement/Purchasing or general supply chain professionals have at some point made the mistake of underestimating our internal customers. I certainly have. We all have let personal judgements or putting one customer’s needs above another cloud our professional capabilities and departmental reputations at some point in our careers. It is all too human in the best of people and organisations.

Like most everything else, Internal Customer Relations needs to be carefully strategized and managed to ensure professionalism and reputation on the part of Procurement and Purchasing, and to ensure satisfaction on the part the internal customer.

What are your views?

Should you have any pertaining enquiries email Karl at karl@furrutterandassociates.co.za or contact him on (27) 82 393-3685. Furrutter and Associates works nationally (South Africa) and internationally.