Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who Is Your Customer?

Who is your customer? I still remember this question asked by the consultant who coached us to obtain the ISO 9001 certification in 1998.  

Our staff knew the customers well enough to blurt out their names effortlessly. The consultant then stopped and questioned one staff, asking him whether his daily duty was to serve the customers directly, or some other immediate “customers” within our own company? After one round of the same question, our staff finally found that indeed, they had “customers” within the company as well. Even the sales and technical staff that are constantly in contact with our regular customers have other “customers” that serve their priority list within our organization.

Definition of Customer

So, who IS your customer? Eventually, the answer points to your superior within your department, or the peer that you report to in the next department. Anyone who demands something from you is your “customer”. Anyone who has some expectations of your work is your “customer”. The job you’ve just completed and handed over to the next guy - this next guy is your “customer”.

You have to ensure that the quality of your job consistently meets your "customer’s" requirements. I like this definition of CUSTOMER in a wider context. We often hear companies claim to deliver quality products that meet customer satisfaction as their mission statement, but more often than not, we see finger-pointing flying around, with blame for other departments or co-workers for some fault or the other. If the internal “customer” satisfaction couldn’t be achieved within a company, the mission statement is just another blurt-out slogan without any substance.

When our ISO 9001 certificate expired in 2007, I decided to forgo renewing it as the changes and growth in our internal quality system is occurring way too fast to be picked up by the documentation requirement of the ISO 9001. In my view, it wasn’t a big deal to acquire the certification - our blood constantly flows strong with quality management regardless.

This Monday, a group of officers under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia came to our office to conduct an audit-visit, as part of their procedures for the Brand Excellence Award short-listing companies. After the factory tour, one officer observed and mentioned that we should have implemented the 5S methodology. My response to her was that as of now we don’t specify, we have learned and adopted all kinds of good practices that benefit the brand.

With Matrade Brand Excellence Award audit committee 

And that’s the concept of Jeet Kune Do that I have written about in my previous blogpost , ….. style without style, moving fluidly instead of following rigid styles and patterns.

Yes, learn how to satisfy your other “customers” within the company; only then will you achieve the real satisfaction for your customers in a broader perspective.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

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