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Who’s the Customer?

by Randall Craig on June 26, 2007

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, New Job

Were you ever at a restaurant when the service was really terrible? You probably promised yourself that you would not go back. And when the service was absolutely top-notch? You probably rewarded the waiter or waitress with a big tip. Either way, if you were asked about the restaurant, you would have responded with your opinion, good or bad.

While you may not work in a restaurant (or even in a service business), it is a great paradigm for your workplace. In every relationship that you have, whether it be with your staff, peers, manager, suppliers, or customers, there is always a service relationship — just like the waiter-customer relationship in the restaurant. You do something for somebody. Somebody does something for you. But unlike the restaurant, the quality of your “service” is not reflected in a tip, but in your reputation and market value.

We forget about this service relationship concept because it gets obscured by day-to-day pressures. And it gets further obscured by some of today’s business terminology: partnerships, teams, task forces, etc.

To clarify your service relationships, trace your responsibilities through any intermediary roles, to the end customer. For example, a purchasing manager serves the warehouse manager, who ships the product to the customer. A research analyst serves the broker who serves the client. Tracing this service chain backwards allows you to identify (and quantify) your impact in terms of the ultimate end client. By defining the impact on those we serve, we can then describe this impact in our annual review – or in an interview.

This week’s action item: When you are next given a task, confirm to yourself who the customer is, their expectations, and how you will exceed their expectations. When the task is done, make a note of your impact: add it to your career file and possibly your resume. When you always exceed expectations, your “customer” will always have something nice to say about you – and will always give you a great reference.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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