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customer service

What makes a customer?

Many of those who attend my seminars are resistant to the concept of customer service. Educators, health care workers and many from both the public and private sectors feel they don’t need customer service training, because they don’t serve “customers.” Customer service is something they associate with retail businesses. As customers themselves, they wish that those who work in these businesses were better trained to serve customers. But, they don’t see the need for it in their own organization.

To address this resistance, I created a formula that defines what a customer is. It demonstrates that no matter what business we are in, we are in the business of serving customers.

C = P + N (e + p)

The customer (C) is a person (P) with a need (N) to be fulfilled. By defining customer this way, the formula clarifies the relationship that exists between the person who requires a product or service and those who supply that service.

Based on this understanding, teachers have parents and students as their customers. Nurses, dentists and doctors have patients. Therapists, consultants and lawyers have clients. Performers and athletes have fans. Civil servants have citizens or taxpayers. Hotels have guests, and transportation companies have passengers.

Some people only have contact with others who work for their organization. For these people, co-workers are their customers. They serve internal customers.

Most customers have two sets of needs (N). One is for a product or service (p) which is relatively easy to deliver, be it an item such as new furniture, a meal or the latest novel; or service such as learning to read, a few stitches after an accident or a business trip.

The second need (N) is more difficult to meet. Most purchasing decisions have an emotional (e) component. People need to feel good about their decision, whether it is the school in which they enroll their children or a new plasma TV. This is where customer service comes into play. Customers feel better about doing business with people who are polite, patient and respectful. They want to feel valued and heard.


Nelson Scott offers several Customer Service Presentations, including Customer Service MAGIC: Changing Complainers into Loyal Customers; What Your Mother Taught You About Customer Service and other Training Resources developed by Service Quality Institute and the Vital Learning Corporation.


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© Nelson Scott.  All rights reserved.

A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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