Who are Your Customers?
Customers, clients, consumers, vendors. Who really is your customer? Where does the desire, policy, and profitability of the company fit in the context of all the good work that you are doing?
In this lesson,
you’ll explore the concept of a customer and consider some of the relationships that impact your work.
Define the Customer and Client
Who are our customers? For many of us, customers are easy to identify. They buy something from us or we serve them in some way. But some people will say, “I don’t work directly with customers.” Before you accept this idea, take a closer look at who your customers are.
In most organizations and agencies, customers take two forms: internal and external.
Internal customers are the people, departments, or agencies served by what we do. The only person who might have no internal customers is the individual who works completely alone. For the rest of us, internal customers are a fact of life. Most of us have at least one internal customer: our boss. We may also have internal customers in the form of people we supervise, who rely on us to meet their needs. For example, a payroll clerk who works in a service call center serves internal employees who need answers about their payroll, so most of her customers are internal. She may also answer questions from spouses of internal employees about the particulars of their benefit plans; those spouses would be external customers.
External customers are the people, departments, or tenants who are the end users of our organization’s products or services. This is, of course, the traditional use of the term customer.
Some organizations refer to the external customer as a client, particularly if you have an ongoing relationship with them. Make sure that you understand who your customers/clients are where you work.
Do you have VIP customers, people who rate extra special service? You may think that seniors or people who spend a lot of money in your facility are VIPs. What do you think? In reality, all the people we work with are our customers and deserve VIP treatment.
What do people want? Well, at the simplest level, our customers have some basic needs:
- They want to be understood.
- They want to feel welcome.
- They want to feel important.
- They want to feel comfortable.
In the 80-20 rule of business, 80% of our customers are reliable, honest, and do good business with us. 20% of customers can be challenging: rude, demanding, paying their bills late, and so on. The difficulty is in determining how to serve all of our customers.
Can we make the demanding 20% as easy to get along with as the 80%? No. In customer service training, it used to be common to hear, “The customer is always right.” That meant that we would do whatever the customer needed or wanted in order to keep him as a customer. The reality is that every customer relationship – the good and the not so good – is based on a relationship.
Normally, a customer exchange within the call center is a short, impersonal interaction. Customers expect, and should receive, a direct, immediate, and efficient response. A call center customer is someone that you have probably never dealt with before and will quite likely never service again.
Clients are also people who expect and receive a direct, immediate, and efficient response. However, the difference is that clients are people that you must get to know and with whom you must have a relationship.
The big difference between servicing customers and servicing clients relates to the type of relationship that you are committed to. Understandably, client relationships take a lot more time and effort to develop than customer relationships. Both customers and clients expect good service and yet both expect it to be delivered differently. One of your important skills is to determine whether you are servicing a customer (get their needs met quickly and satisfactorily) or a client (get their needs met quickly and satisfactorily while developing this relationship).