A man dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt, with snickers shoes, entered the reception. The receptionist on duty with no clear picture of what the man wanted, greeted him, and requested to know how he could be helped.

As though not satisfied with the receptionist’s approach, the man demanded ‘I need to see your MD, now!’ he yelled emphatically. Before the receptionist could get him to state his identity, so she can call the MD’s Personal Assistant, the man yelled the same demand again, this time hitting his hand on the table.

This called the attention of the Manager in the nearest office to the reception. He came out and beckoned on the man and took him to his office. On discussion with the man, the manager realized that he was a dissatisfied customer.

Though this piece is not necessarily about handling dissatisfied customers, the analogy is to show that a customer is not identified by any physical attribute, but the value they give to the organisation.

Oftentimes when an employee relates with a customer in an unsatisfactory manner, it tends to stem from lack of understanding of the place of the customer in the business. Some employees see themselves as more important to the business than the customers and therefore consider meeting their needs as more important than satisfying the needs and wants of the customers. While employees are a key stakeholder in a business, customers equally occupy a very strategic position in every business.

In order to ensure that the customers and their issues are given the attention they deserve, it is important to understand who they are and what they represent in a business.

Michael LeBoeuf, says that a Customer is not dependent on us … we are dependent on him. He further states what he believes a customer is not. “A Customer is not an interruption of our work … he is the purpose of it. We are not doing a favour by serving her… he is doing us a favour by giving us opportunity to do so”.

“A Customer is a person who brings us his wants. It is our job to handle them profitably to him and to the business. A Customer is the most important person ever in our office … in person, by mail or by phone”. This assertion, may not easily be agreed by certain business owners and their employees, however it is important to view the place of the customer by the value they bring into the organisation and not just the product or service a business gives in exchange of it.

For instance, if an employee is able to find a connection between his/her monthly salary or weekly wage and the money the customer brings into the system, then, they are able to recognize the major place the customer occupies in the society. Again, if the business owner is able to find a connection between the market-share their business controls, the annual turnover as well as the profit and the money the customer brings, they would further value the customer.

What often happens is that the business owner and the employees believe that since the money is exchange of goods and services the customer receives, then there is nothing special about them, they need us and they would come back, mistreated or well treated. However they forget that the customer has many choices among the competitors, but chose to patronize them.

This therefore requires that businesses should connect with the customer beyond exchange of products and services for money and begin to relate with them as major stake holders in business. It means that there is need for a conscious effort towards understanding the customer beyond the person who visits the business place for one form of service or the other. The customer should be understood as someone who has a relationship with the business; a relationship that should be nurtured for the benefit of both parties.

Building positive relationships with customers requires a business to have a good understanding of their needs and wants. By improving understanding of the customers, including their purchasing motivations and habits, businesses can personalise the customer service you provide. Understanding the customer would also help a business to:

  • decide on the best price to set for products and services
  • build relationships and rapport with the customers
  • increase sales and profitability
  • increase how much and how often customers patronize the business
  • decrease the costs associated with attracting new customers
  • create loyal customers who refer others to the same business
  • develop a positive image. personal-branding-key-selling/

So before we begin to discuss what forms of customer service we should provide in business, there is need to first understand what it means to be a customer. The way to achieve this will be the focus of the next article.

References, Understand your Customer

LeBoeuf, M. (2000) How to win Customers and Keep them for life

Image Credit:

Nwakerendu Ike, twitter @nwanduike

Nwakerendu Ike is a communication and customer service specialist, he has a Ph.D. in Mass communication and also head of customer service and Corporate Communication in one of the leading insurance companies in Nigeria.