Who is My Customer?

If I asked you to describe your customer, you might tell me a few names of individuals or companies, or you might describe the type of person or business to whom you supply your product or service. As a business leader you know who your customers are. Quality businesses understand their customers very well, doing all sorts of detailed market analysis.

But if I asked your employees who their customer is, would they be able to answer as succinctly? Chances are the sales, marketing and customer service people would have a pretty good answer, but what about operations? If your business has teams in manufacturing, construction, laboratories, accounts, engineering, design, warehousing, scheduling, logistics, etc, do they know who their customer is?

The quality management system standard ISO 9001 guides companies to consistently provide products or services that meet customer requirements, and seek to continuously improve customer satisfaction.

But Who is My Customer?

If your business has a process approach, you will realise there are inputs and outputs from each step in the process. For example, the sales team may be talking to your client or customer to make the sale, but their output is an order. Does the order go to your customer? No, it goes to the next person or team within your organisation to start the process of preparing your product or service for the final customer. Could this mean that the sales team also have an internal customer within your organisation? Yes! Each step of your business process actually has an internal customer. Once your teams understand this, their focus on customer satisfaction can shift, and productivity improvements flow. To develop a quality focus within your organisation, consider how your teams can better service internal customers in the process of delivering your products and services to external customers.