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Customer hierarchy (2)

It’s well accepted that great organisations focus on delighting their customers. But we talk less about managing the sometimes conflicting needs of multiple customers (see yesterday’s post). A good way to manage this tension is to draw up a customer hierarchy for your team: when we need to compromise between competing customers, who do we delight?

Here’s what it looks like for my organisation:

  1. Impact group and end user: Children in poor communities across Indonesia who can’t yet read. What they need: a skilled and caring teacher who teaches reading in a way that is fun and engaging, and effective (enables them to learn to read well).
  2. End user: The people (teacher, parents, community groups) who teach those children. What they need: Training that is engaging and effective (gives them the skills they need to teach reading well, and the confidence and belief that this they can do it). To feel respected, liked and well supported.
  3. Buyers: The individuals, school or organisation leaders or government managers who choose, approve and pay for our product. (Might be the same people as 2) What they need: to like and trust us, to believe our product meets their needs and creates more value for them than it costs, and to see that there is a way that they can afford it.*
  4. Gatekeepers: any groups, organisations or officials who can enable or further our cause by approving or promoting our product. What they need: to trust us, to see that we meet their requirements, and just as importantly to like us and have a reason for supporting or promoting our work.
  5. Other partners: organisations we work with less directly, coalitions that we support. What they need: to feel that we’re on their side, useful contributors to the cause, impactful and competent.
  6. Donors and funding organisations: individual and institutional funders that partner with us by paying for groups to receive training, sponsoring books or other events, and making general donations towards our work. What they need: to believe that our vision is worth supporting, that we are sincere, trustworthy, competent and making an impact, and can see the way forward and take others with us.
  7. Employees, volunteers and board members: no need for a description here. What they need: to feel that the work is meaningful and worth doing; to feel respected, valued and cared for; to feel that they know what they need to do, that the work is challenging but enjoyable, to feel that they are part of a team and that they are growing.

So that’s that. In the words of Tom Peters (quoting someone else), leaders are “people who serve people who serve people.”

It’s turtles customers all the way down.

*Making this happen will take clear, well structured and well presented information at a level of detail appropriate to their interest about what the product is, how it works and what it costs presented in a way that demonstrates care for their needs, enthusiasm, and confidence in the product.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...