Who are my Customers and what do they want out of me?
By: Chris Popp
Director of Sales and Marketing
You are an engineer not a salesman, right? Well, not exactly. Everyone has “customers”.
Definition: Customer – Someone to whom we provide a product or service.
Based on this definition you have many different types of “customers” you are beholden to. This includes the typical “external” customer to whom your company sells your products and “internal” customers, or those you work with and provide a service of one type or another.
Examples of “External” customers:
- The buyer to whom you help your salesman present your product’s benefits.
- The project engineer to whom you discuss modifications of your machine to meet his needs.
- The plant engineer that you talk to about installation and machine operation.
- The Maintenance manager to whom you discuss service issues.
Examples of “Internal” customers:
- Your salesman that need your technical support to make a sale.
- Your suppliers that need your application details to provide solutions.
- Your purchasing department who needs detailed specs and part numbers.
- Your assembly department for when things don’t go together as planned.
- Your accounting department that needs accurate assembly or machining times.
- The shipping department that needs accurate measurements for packing.
- Your manager who needs justification of your efforts and productivity.
I suggest that each of these “customers” have different needs and different expectations on how your interactions with them should proceed and the desired outcome that results. Their judgment of the quality of your service will be based on their expectations of how you respond.
To achieve the highest level of service, then, requires that you try to understand the unique expectations of the customer type, along with their personal needs if possible, and provide the service in the way they want to receive it.
This is inherently difficult for 4 reasons. The first and most important is that we all like to work in a specific way. Altering how we respond to different “customers” means that we have to act in ways that may be out of our comfort zone or are not aligned with our particular strengths. However, improving your skills to fulfill the their needs in the manner they prefers will reap positive results and enhance your personal brand.
The second is its often difficult to understand what they really want. Probing for the true motivation will often lead to improved understanding.
The third is sometimes the needs of one customer are in direct conflict with another customer. One needs it now but you have other critical projects you are working on, for example. Balancing these needs often requires creativity to arrive at an acceptable solution.
The fourth difficulty is sometimes the needs just can’t be met, because of design or logistical problems. Being able to identify alternate solutions can often save the day. And if not, sincere empathy may soothe the pain.
Regardless the difficulties, the ability to satisfy your customers needs in the way they expect, along with the level of that satisfaction, will be the main determining factors of how the customer judges you.
The action plan going forward is to slow down on each request and try to determine where the customer is coming from and what he wants out of you. Then try to deliver it. Evaluate what works and what doesn’t and modify responses accordingly.
A few weeks of evaluation of how your customers respond to your new process will help you determine what tools are needed to improve the individualized service that you provide and, ultimately, the overall value you offer.
Director of Sales and Marketing
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