The word customer derives from “customs”, which derives from the Latin word “custumarius“. Historically, a customer was one who had been authorized — often by Royal Authority — to bring goods into a country via a Custom House. For the last 500 years or so, the meaning of the word customer has been generalized to mean a person with whom you do business.
Using this contemporary definition, we should ask: Who are the people we’re doing business with daily? We do business with buyers, of course. But we also deal with vendors, colleagues, prospects, community members, and government agencies etc. Therefore, every person we do business with is a customer.
The logical inference: We should provide customer service to all people (because they are all customers), not just the small percentage of people who exchange money for our products or services.
Practical Tip: See Yourself as the Customer’s Customer
Think of it: If “every person we do business with is a customer”, then you are your customer’s customer. As a customer, do you expect to be provided with excellent service? Do you want to be treated with dignity and respect? Do you want the type of opportunities that have been afforded to others in the past?
To get those things, you have to give those things. Begin by treating everyone the same way. “Customer service” is not synonymous with “consumer service”. Customer service is about treating others the way you want to be treated. Customer service is essentially professionalism-in-action.
As professionals, we need not take a narrow view of customer service (i.e. only satisfying buyers). Growth occurs when everyone is seen as a customer, and collective talents are focused on satisfying all of the company’s customers…both internal and external.
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