Saturday, February 21, 2015

Who is the customer?

Who is the customer?

There are two distinct types of customers --- External or Internal. An external customer can be defined in many ways, such as 
  • The one who uses the product or service 
  • The one who purchases the product or service
  • The one who influences the sale of the product or service
For instance, McDonald determined the customer to be the child when they introduced their Happy Meals. The child never paid for the meals but the child influences the sale. Oftentimes, the identification of the external customer is not always easy.

Let us understand the External and Internal Customer

External Customer

An external customer exists outside the organization and generally fall into three categories.
  1. Current 
  2. Prospective
  3. Lost Customers
Each category provides valuable customer satisfaction information for the organization . Every employee in the organization  must know how their job enhances the total satisfaction of the external customer. Performance must be continuously improved in order to retain existing customers and to gain new ones.

Internal Customer

An internal customer is just as important. Every function, whether it be engineering, order processing , or production has an internal customer--- each receives a product or service and in exchange, provides a product or service. Every person in a process is considered a customer of the preceding operation. Each worker's goal is to make sure that quality meets the expectations of the next person. When that happens throughout the manufacturing, sales, and distribution chain, the satisfaction of the external customer should be assured.

One basic concept of TQM is an unwavering focus on customers, both internal and external. Most employees know about the external customer or end user but may not think of other employees as internal customers of their output. 
In an ideal organization, every employee would have direct contact with customers and be effective at meeting their needs. But the reality is that most employees are shielded from customers by organization layers. For example, the first line supervisor in a computer factory may never speak with the business person who buys and depends on the organization's product. However, that supervisor and countless other employees who lack direct content must still contribute to the business person's satisfaction.

Three basic questions that must be asked to internal customers
  1. What do you need from me?
  2. What do you do with my output?
  3. Are there any gaps between what you need and what you get?
Hence to achieve the satisfaction of external customer, employees of an organization must learn to satisfy their internal customers.
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