Re-Think “Customer”

Matt Tomsho wrote a great post about customers that I wanted to share with you.

What if everyone was a Customer?

The dictionary definition (at least's definition) of a customer is, "a person who purchases goods or services from another; buyer; patron."  Let's make that a little broader and say "a person who provides something of value to another to obtain something else of value." This way we include more classic transactions like barter. When you broaden the definition of customer like that, something interesting happens. The universe of who is a customer broadens as well. In barter, aren't both parties customers?  Each of us is providing something of value to the other, so we are each other's customers! The vendor literally becomes our customer. Let's take this a step further. Using that broad definition, we can redefine the employer/employee relationship.  Isn't the employer the customer of the employee? The employer is exchanging something of value (money and benefits in this case), to obtain the employee's services.  Before you laugh at that, how does a free-lancer or consultant refer to the companies they provide their services to? As customers! Why shouldn't a "regular" employee think the same way? Now let's get really crazy with this. Again, using that broad definition, we can also say the employee is the customer of the employer. They are "purchasing" the "coin of the realm" from the employer by providing the currency of their service. The only differentiation from barter is the use of currency rather than equally valued services or products. This thought experiment is not to suggest we should become a "barter" economy, but rather to re-examine buyer/seller, employer/employee relationships. What if everyone, vendors, employers, and employees were all treated as customers by each other? We all know that businesses tend to thrive when they provide excellent customer service. How much more vital could a business be if it extended that to its vendors and employees? What we traditionally call vendors should already be extending great service to their clients, but what if employees acted as vendors and treated their employers as customers? Imagine a world where the object of the employer is not to get the most out of an employee for the least cost, and the object of the employee was not to get the most payout of an employer for the least amount of work. Imagine a world where providing true value on all sides was the objective. What could be achieved if everyone was a customer?

About Matt:  Matt is an author and speaker based in Pittsburgh, PA.  He helps people become more effective in all they are doing, both personal and professional. You can find out more about what he calls “crypto-effectology” at his website: and his blog: He is also the author of  Leadership Starts With You. Fast Action Steps to Unlocking Your True Leadership Potential. Check his site for more information about it.

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