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DEFINING BUSINESS PURPOSE AND MISSION: THE CUSTOMER

WHO IS THE CUSTOMER?

“Who is the customer?” is the first and the crucial question in defining business purpose and business mission. It is not an easy, let alone an obvious question. How it is being answered determines, in large measure, how the business defines itself. The consumer – that is, the ultimate user of a product or a service – is always a customer.

Most business has at least two customers. Both have to buy if there is to be a sale. The manufactures of branded consumer goods always have two customers at the very least: the housewife and the grocer. It does not do much good to have the housewife eager to buy if the grocer does not stock the brand. Conversely, it does not do much good to have the grocer display merchandise advantageously and give it shelf space if the housewife does not buy. To satisfy only one of these customers without satisfying the other means that there is no performance.

ACTION POINT: Take one product or service that you are responsible for and determine how many kinds of customers you have for it. Then figure out if you are satisfying all of your different kinds of customers, or if you are ignoring some category (ies) of customers.

UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE CUSTOMER BUYS

WHAT DOES THE CUSTOMER CONSIDER VALUE?

The final question needed in order to come to grips with business purpose and business mission is: “What is value to the customer?” it may be the most important question. Yet it is the on least often asked. One reason is that managers are quite sure that they know the answer. Value is what they, in their business, define as quality. But this is almost always the wrong definition. The customer never buys a product. By definition the customer buys the satisfaction of a want. He buys value.

For the teenage girl, for instance, value in a shoe is high fashion. It has to be “in.” Price is a secondary consideration and durability is not value at all. For the same girl as a young mother, a few years later, high fashion be comes a restraint. She will not buy something that is quite unfashionable. But what she looks for is durability, price, comfort and fit, and so on. The same shoe that represents the best buy for the teenager is a very poor value for her slightly older sister. What a company’s different customers consider value is so complicated that it can be answered only by the customers themselves. Management should not even try to guess at the answers – it should always go to the customers in a systematic quest for them.

ACTION POINT: What do your customers consider most valuable about the product or service you provide? If you don’t know, find out. If you do know, ask your customers if you are delivering.

If you can shift your thinking away from merely selling and into building trust instead, even if it costs you a few bucks in profit, you’ll begin to see opportunities you never imagined once you understand what it means to ‘wow’ that customer by giving them more than they expected!

CHRIS ZANE

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