Who really is your Customer? Ask your employees in every department whom their true Customer is and you will get varying answers. Truth is, your primary Customer is the person you communicate with directly on a day-to-day basis and who is affected the most by the work you do. In the business-to-business world, manufacturing and corporate office settings, the Customer is mostly internal people that work at the same organization; positions like management, administration, IT, HR, Marketing, Regional Sales Managers, warehouse, Branch Managers, Legal, and Regional Directors. Every single company I have ever worked with suffers from people in these positions truly not understanding who their Customers are, the person/group that is most dependent on their services.
UPS’s Customer – While I was in college, I worked at United Parcel Service as a Pre-loader, loading trucks in the middle of the night. I was never told that my Customer was the package driver who drove the tuck I loaded and had to deliver those packages all day. When I didn’t do as good of a job as I could have, I would have drivers come in and share their frustration with me. I just blew them off as jerky co-workers. Then after I graduated from college, I got promoted to a UPS driver and I realized that my daily success was predicated on how well my truck was loaded and organized. Some days it was horrible. I would find packages at 3 pm in the back of my truck that I should have delivered at 10 am, when I was on the other side of town. Now I had to back track, making me late to get all my stops in on time and I would get home late. UPS missed a golden opportunity to teach loaders who their real Customer was and how we impacted their day. As I said earlier, in most businesses, front-line employees have never been their own Customer, don’t know what it is like to be in their Customers’ shoes, and have little empathy and compassion for how / what they do affects their Customer.
It’s about TIME – It doesn’t matter what industry you are in today, companies like Google, Zappos, and Amazon have affected your business. They have now affected the expectations of your Customers. It is all about time and the world of the Internet that has made everything instantaneous, from information, answers to questions, to products in people’s hands. Today a friend can recommend a good book for you to read and within 30 seconds it is on your kindle and in your hands. There are companies like Zappos and other great retailers that can have a product at your door the next morning if you order it by 6 pm. This has not only changed Customers’ expectations for everyone with whom they do business, but it has also changed their level of patience. Customers expect phone calls and emails to be returned the same day, if not sooner, as well as support and resolutions to their issues. They expect you to find the product they are looking for; not to be told they can go home and search the Internet themselves. In his book, The Amazement Revolution, author Shep Hyken shares a story on how the Four Season’s Hotel understands the critical importance of their Customers’ time.