Customers: Really Important aspect of business?

customer-importantI have seen many people talking about customer and customer-relationship management. They all think customer as a supreme power and believe them as the most important aspect of the business. I have seen many managers talking about customer needs and asking the team to mould according to the needs and demands of the customers. Many workshops are regularly being conducted so that the team can better understand their customer and the gap can be mitigated. Leaders and Managers talk about knowing customer, marking the availability as per the customer demands and they strive hard for the CSS (customer satisfaction survey) rating to be always high. I believe many managers think that CSS is the only way to mark the satisfaction of the customers.customer-important1

But above all this I have a separate thinking about customers. In my career so far, I am blessed to work with many customers and all with different needs and demands. I worked for telecom industry and IT industry but believe me I have noticed whatever be the industry, the customers are always same. They always think themselves superior and care least about the vendors. I have been quite rebellious in my career and thus always have hot discussions with customer manager which sometimes harmed me but believe me most of the time I succeeded in convincing my manager that customer is not always right.

Before moving further, I would like to throw some light on the meaning of the word customer.

Customer: Someone who pays for goods or services [Courtsey: WordWeb Pro]

I think customers are most unanticipated species rather breed on this earth. It’s evident from the start of the human life that the one at buying side is always demanding and most of the time never adjusting. This behavior of the customers can be seen in all those places where the business is being done. And the corporate world is not different from it, here also we always find customers with unexpected demands and time-lines.

They feel they have full rights for changing requirements at run-time, demanding unusual reports at eleventh hour, sharing less but expecting more etc. They always believe that whatever they have quoted is correct and final. And most of the times it lead to delay in project delivery.

But this provokes me to think on the cause of these situations and I believe that this kind of customer behavior is due to major business outsourcing. To my knowledge, maximum business owners believe in outsourcing which in a way or two helps in transferring the risk from the owner to the vendors. On the one hand outsourcing helps in involving maximum possible expertise on any project but this also contributes in untimely demands of the owners/customers. Today IT has became more outsourced industry which has increased more number of owner-vendor relationships.

This behavior of most of the customers leads to the ambiguity in the requirements and thus there should be someone who can act as a liaison among these stakeholders to mitigate such kind of risks. To overcome this situation, IT has developed a new role called Business analyst who on one hand deals with business owners to freeze the requirements and on the other hand drives the project with the development team. The business analyst has to be more attentive and alert at the time of requirement gathering/elicitation. He has to be more creative and proactive to deal with customers in order to freeze the right information and requirements.

But can this be solved by one sided efforts only. I think customers have to think other-way round as well. They should learn appreciating the vendors of their hard work and commitments towards the business which doesn’t belong to them. Not only this, vendors should not consider customers as the supreme power and learn to say NO in the adverse conditions. As they say, “Don’t say Yes when you want to say NO” (Also title of a book written by Herbert Fensterheim and Jean Baer). I don’t want to divert the current topic but I believe saying NO certainly prevents in setting wrong expectations before the customer.

Apart from this a 360 degree feedback session also helps in understanding customer needs well.

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There are certainly many methods or ways to minimize the conflict between the customer and the vendor but those all processes should also be followed at personal level by each one of us working in corporate or non-corporate world. Yes customers are the important aspect of the business but I think management should not give so much hype to them which may result in the disbelief in the team for their managers and leaders. There should always be a balance so that the vendors easily understand the business and give their full efforts and commitment.Not only customers but vendors also should be given full rights to give feedback about the customer they are working with. This will certainly help in bridging the gap between the two parties and results in high performance delivery.

Happy Reading!!!!!

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