What Is A Customer?
In the world of Agile, and the world of business too, we hear a lot about “customer value”. Folks seem to have some kind of handle on “value” (although not everyone can agree on that one – see my post “What Is Value” for my take, based on Goldratt and his Theory of Constraints).
And for the record, we might also choose to frame the question of value within the Antimatter Principle frame, and vocabulary:
Value: The degree to which folks’ needs, in aggregate, are being (or have been) met.
But what about “customer”? So simple and straightforward. Do we even need to define it? I thought not, until a recent conversation on Twitter gave me pause for reconsidering. Specifically, the idea that maybe folks are talking at major cross-purposes, with significantly differing assumptions and definitions for the term. If we can’t agree on a basic term like “customer”, what chance alignment of a whole host of fundamental questions about software, products and business generally?
Here’s my definition, again using the Antimatter Principle as a frame:
Customer: Someone (could be either a person, or a collection of people) whose needs we’re attending to.
I’m pretty sure you’ll have a different definition of customer. I’d love to hear your take.
Before I close this post, here’s a different definition, informed by Crosby and his Zero-Defects (ZeeDee) approach to quality:
Customer: Anyone who receives or anticipates receiving something (e.g. a good or a service) from someone else.
This definition canonises Crosby’s idea that we’re all customers. And we’re all suppliers, too. And as suppliers, it falls to us to ensure that what we’re supplying is what our immediate customer needs to supply their customer(s).