How many customer’s should you have?

Maxim #41
There is only one ‘customer’

maxim_41When process re-engineering and its later sibling Six Sigma came around, it became fashionable to talk about internal customers. This helped to explain hand-offs within the organization, where a product or information was processed in one department and handed off to the next. The next department in the chain became the “internal customer.” While the core idea of improving internal service may be well intentioned, it has one major drawback: calling functional departments “customers” diminishes the importance and significance of the actual customer.

There is a concept we call the customer’s “line of visibility.” This is what the customer actually sees and experiences (a phone call, a sales visit, an order form, delivery of the product or service, an invoice, etc.) It’s from these touchpoints that a customer determines the quality of the experience. Many people in organizations operate below this line of visibility, doing things that are important in the processing of the service or product but that the customer never observes. It’s easy for these people to lose sight of who the customer is, and how their role fits into delivering something of value. But companies should try hard to not lose sight of who their actual customers are.

There is only one “customer,” and that is the person (or organization) that signs a check that pays for a product or service