Defining “Customer”

Many times I enter a business and while I get pretty good service, it seems fake or scripted.  It makes me feel like I’m on an assembly line and I am waiting to get a bolt installed instead of a person with individual needs.  Why has it gotten to this?  I think it has to do with how most businesses define customers from the very limited view of buying and selling.

How would defining customers differently change our behavior and cause us to perhaps behave more genuinely?

To get to that, let’s look at some of those definitions.  A look into Webster’s finds a customer defined as someone who buys goods or services from a business.  That’s pretty standard; however, customer is also a synonym for guest or client.  A guest is defined as a person invited to visit or stay in someone’s home or a person invited to a place or event as a special honor.  Finally, a client is defined as one who is under the protection of another.

Now how does that change things?  Think about it, what if we began to think of customers, those we serve, as honored people invited to stay in our home?  What if we thought of them as people to protect?  How would our behaviors change?  What would we do differently?

I think we would welcome customers as people we want to impress; we would do things in their best interest to protect them from difficulty and from being harmed.  Our behaviors would genuinely be about people and not about a transaction.  Imagine your business being represented with employees who demonstrate an attitude that treats customers as guests to be welcomed and clients to be protected, how would that change your bottom-line without having to market or come up with pricing schemes or new products?  I think you would agree that it sounds like a refreshing change from the typical scripted, impersonal, transactional service being delivered all around us as well as a way to differentiate you and your business from the crowd.

So, what can you do?  Have a meeting with your employees and ask them to define customer.  Share the definitions of guest and client.  Ask them how those definitions change things.  Ask them how they would treat a guest and how they would protect a client.  Have them try going one day thinking of customers as guests and clients that they are bound to protect against harm.  Have another meeting and ask what was different.

If you want an inexpensive way to a better bottom line and more loyal customers, begin driving honored guest and protected client into your business’s language and culture.


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