Why is the Customer that Important?

As it appeared in the daily nation of February 10th 2015

Lucy Kiruthu

A recruiter once said that I had overused the word customer on my CV. Interestingly this made me the best candidate for a customer service role 10 years ago. The use of the word only reflected who I had become; a customer service champion.  This status has not changed much, 5 years into management consultancy and training my world revolves around my customers. Today, the realization that my customer is my employer is closer home than ever before. Does everyone realize how important customers are to their company?

Irrespective of the industry, the customer remains core to any organization’s existence. Teams in sales and marketing bring in new customers and retain existing ones. Finance teams seek to maintain a healthy income statement whose top line is the revenue collected from customers. Human resources practitioners aim to develop staff who serve the customers. Those in information technology seek to ease customer processes and streamline information flow. Customer service teams on the other hand champion customer focus across the organization and weigh up the overall customer experience. Managers aim to put it all together and Shareholders hope to get a return on their investment. In the back of everyone’s mind is a customer whose importance is clear to some and hazy to others. Undoubtedly, this customer pays the salaries, the bonuses and the dividends that many yearn for.

For many decades, the importance of customers to business has been applauded by renowned business leaders. The statement that “it is the customer who pays the wages not the employer” was used by Henry Ford more than 70 years ago. Today, many CEOs are leading their organizations the customer service way because they know that without their customers their business would cease to exist. However there are those business men and women still living in the 19th century and not really concerned about the customer. Just recently a road side workshop was making a piece of furniture for me. Three visits later, the item was not ready and it did not seem like the workshop was busy.  I wonder how such businesses survive!

The most important customers are not those that walk in and walk out of our business but those that stay, tell others about us and share insights on how to better serve them. This only happens when customers feel that we really care, that we are genuinely interested in serving them and that we recognize that our businesses would not exist without them. I will not be going back to that workshop and neither will I recommend it simply because they do not think I am an important customer. I believe that I am not the only one me who feels that way about them. If anyone in business still perceives customer as not all that important, they should try running their business without customers.

This quote attributed to Kenneth B. Elliott, L. L. Bean and even Mahatma Gandhi sums it all “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so”

Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on lucy@evolve-consultants.com/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy

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