Are you my customer?

by Jan Yuill

I met with a colleague yesterday over a coffee and we found ourselves discussing the definition of a ‘customer.’ We agreed that customers are both internal and external to the organization.

But how often do we really see and treat the person inside the organization as a customer? Internal customers are our peers, team members, and colleagues. They are our bosses, as well as those who report to us. But do we see them as someone we serve? Whose satisfaction is the measure of our success?

She told me about a client of hers – a health organization. She had asked them the question, “Who is your customer?” and they responded out of the Strategic Vision about the external customer. But then they admitted that they actually did not have any contact with those people at all. She pressed them further, “So who do you do your work for?” It was the doctors. And the doctors, in turn, served the patients. She told me that it was a hard sell, and that not everyone was ‘on side’ by the end of the session.

Your customers are the people who call you on the phone. With whom you meet face-to-face. They are the ones who are concerned that you meet your deadline, and who get very fidgety when you don’t.

We know this in theory, but internal Customer Service, is not so common in practice.

I believe that organizations would experience profoundly, positive changes; if each member worked to develop a service mentality for those with whom they rub shoulders, day in and day out.