Organizations of all types and sizes have come to realize that their main focus must be to satisfy their customers.
This applies to industrial firms, retail and wholesale businesses, government bodies, service companies, nonprofit organizations and every subgroup within an organization.
Two important questions:
Customers include anyone the organization supplies with products or services. The table below illustrates some supplier-customer relationships. (Note that many organizations are simultaneously customers and suppliers.)
|Supplier-customer relationship examples|
|Supplier||Customer||Product or Service|
|Automobile manufacturer||Individual customers||Cars|
|Automobile manufacturer||Car dealer||Sales literature, etc.|
|Bank||Checking account holders||Secure check handling|
|High school||Students and parents||Education|
|County recorder||Residents of county||Maintenance of records|
|Hospital||Insurance company||Data on patients|
|Insurance company||Hospital||Payment for services|
|Steel cutting department||Punch press department||Steel sheets|
|Punch press department||Spot weld department||Shaped parts|
|All departments||Payroll department||Data on hours worked, etc.|
Don’t assume you know what the customer wants. There are many examples of errors in this area, such as “new Coke” and car models that didn’t sell. Many organizations expend considerable time, money and effort determining the “voice” of the customer, using tools such as customer surveys, focus groups and polling.
Satisfying the customer includes providing what is needed when it’s needed. In many situations, it’s up to the customer to provide the supplier with requirements. For example, the payroll department should inform other departments of the exact format for reporting the numbers of hours worked by employees. If the payroll department doesn’t do this job properly, it bears some responsibility for the variation in reporting that will occur.
Excerpted from Donald W. Benbow, Ahmad K. Elshennawy and H. Fred Walker, The Certified Quality Technician Handbook, ASQ Quality Press, 2003, pages 1-2.