The pace of business today and the realities of the current economy have resulted in changes and adjustments throughout the business world. With cost pressures, businesses have stressed the impact on service.

Anyone who has endured the gauntlet of airline travel recently understands the frustrations caused by the cost pressures on the airlines and the service impacts these changes have forced on air travel. From baggage fees to inflight meals to the frustration of rescheduling flights, the list of services sacrificed for efficiency is extensive. From the consumer point of view, all these changes in the name of efficiency have stressed passengers who are looking for effectiveness and support.

Of course the airlines are an easy target, but the point remains valid. When an organization’s focus shifts too far to efficiency, effectiveness suffers.

Achieving an effective balance of service expectations and business efficiencies is equally critical within a company (i.e., between internal service organizations and internal consumers). Employee surveys continue to report a disconnect between employees’ activities and the mission of the organization. A recent Harvard Business Review article, “To Give Your Employees Meaning, Start With Mission,” discusses the direct correlation between employee satisfaction and their sense of feeling connected to the mission (December 2012, by Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer). A service-based organization finds a way to connect employees to services and consumers.

I’ve written before about efficiency and effectiveness in corporate IT departments, and while that discussion focused on IT, the lessons to be drawn from it hold true throughout any organization concerned with internal service. Few IT organizations seek to truly understand internal business units’ perception of IT’s impact and the importance the business units place on the components of IT delivery. It is critical to recognize this insight to become an effective IT organization that truly enables the business. It’s easy for IT to focus on one component, such as availability, but that pigeonholes the IT organization as a utility provider. CIOs might boast a 99% availability record, but if the users don’t perceive a greater value in IT than as a utility provider, they’ll only care about the 1% of the time that systems are down.

To become truly effective and not just efficient, it is vital to understand the customer’s expectations and how you’re performing according to those expectations.

During these difficult times of cost pressures, staffing reductions and process changes, business leaders must not ignore the relationship seams that are being stretched and potentially coming unraveled. It is vital to understand the internal consumer needs, expectations and issues while balancing the pressures, needs, services and expectations of the service provider. This process does not happen naturally. As organizational change and financial pressures continue to exert stress on organizations, internal service is often a forgotten topic. Ripple effects of these changes are rarely understood until they are implemented and wreak havoc on relationships. Leaders must drive to become a service-based organization where the needs of the internal consumers are clearly articulated, understood and managed by the internal service providers.

Managing the seams between the internal service providers and service consumers is critical in leading a healthy, agile organization. Service leaders must actively utilize a number of proven tools and techniques to help the organization return to a service mentality. One such tool is the RATER method, as outlined in Valarie Zeithaml’s, “Delivering Quality Service.” RATER measures value in Reliability, Assurance (knowledge, quality and credibility of the staff), Tangible (physical aspects of communication, documents and processes), Empathy (relating to user concerns and issues) and Responsiveness. It is a qualitative and quantitative method that can help provide customized solutions to improve effectiveness. RATER and other tools like it provide a clear roadmap when the path toward a service focus seems murky.

As an organization moves to a service focus, leaders should define the internal services the organization delivers, the appropriate service levels and the cost associated with delivering those services. This intersection of consumers and services forms the service instance that takes on definition and service levels that can clearly be defined and measured. The service leader and the consumer leader should meet periodically to review service delivery and mutual expectations. This kind of partnership will create a spirit of transparency and collaboration and improve relationships throughout the organization.

By proactively measuring and managing internal service performance and expectations, a company will maintain a healthy service-to-consumer relationship that improves the overall business and raises the level of performance in organizational effectiveness, as well as organizational efficiency. This service focus gives employees throughout the organization a sense of purpose and empowerment, creating a culture that is both efficient and effective.