Customer Satisfaction and The Hero

In this series I am exploring the notion of viewing interdepartmental relationships within a company as “customer-provider” relationships.  In this post I want to tackle the question:

What does customer satisfaction mean?

Customer satisfaction is hard to define.  Ultimately, we want customers from whom wealth flows to the owners to be content, so the wealth keeps flowing.  But in interdepartmental customer-provider relationships, satisfaction is harder to define.  We often think monopolistic-ally, that our customers have little or no ability to find another provider.  But ask all of those it staffers whose jobs have been outsourced… there are no guarantees.

In interdepartmental relationships, my departments incentives feel more important than theirs. I may be balancing capacity between customers and not have enough to satisfy all. Internal customer satisfaction may be more about prediction, collaboration, and communication when problems arise.

Sometimes it’s about trust. Being honest and open when making or missing commitments.  Negotiating service level contracts. Establishing communication protocols. Even asking for help when overwhelmed.

Sometimes it’s about your customers operating constraints.  Maybe it’s speed or timing of interaction, aligning schedules.  Maybe it’s information flow, content or structure.

All of these require you to understand your customers needs. It requires some empathy.  That takes time and patience. It means being intentional.

What if customer satisfaction meant “helping my customer see himself as the hero of the story”, rather than the victim?

That makes us the valued “sidekick” rather than the hero. …and that is a powerful way to engage your customer!  And it is true.  The customer never really wants the supplier to be the hero.  He wants the supplier to help him be the hero.  In a value chain of customer supplier relationships, I need to perceive myself (or my department) as both being the hero (enabled by my suppliers) and the sidekick helping my customer become the hero.