I’m re-upping this because I continue to feel it’s a point that gets missed by IT folks.
Customer. Consumer. Colleague. What’s the difference?
The Customer is the person or entity paying. They may or may not use the service or product for which they are paying, but the money comes out of their account.
The Consumer is the person or entity using the goods or services. They may not be the one paying for it.
You are not a customer of the NFL. You are a consumer. Pepsi, Budweiser and United Airlines are customers. As such, the NFL is more likely to respond to the wishes of the customers (scheduling game times, selecting blackout markets, etc) than those of the consumers.
The person who calls and screams at a helpdesk analyst does so (in part) because they’re under the (mistaken) impression that they are the customer. The problem is’nt in their status, nor in the helpdesk’s execution of services. It is in the person – the consumer’s – perception of the relationship.
As I.T. practitioners, I don’t think we communicate this clearly to the end-users. I think in a lot of cases, the omission is very purposeful. Who wants to be told they’re not in charge? Worse, who wants to be told that the service they depend on doesn’t respond to THEIR needs, but rather the needs of dispassionate bean-counters who have an entirely different set of criteria to determine “success”?
What’s more, I’ve always found “customer” to be an uncomfortable word to use when referring to internal services inside a company. It implies a fiscal relationship that isn’t there, and therefore all expectations are skewed. If the company where I worked was a TRUE customer of mine, they could decide my services were substandard and go seek out another supplier. Conversely, as a TRUE vendor to my company-turned-customer, I could decide they’re a problem client, and prohibitively price myself in order to say “no” without saying “no”.
No such privilege exists with the helpdesk. Users cannot choose to call another Helpdesk vendor, nor can the HD staff decide that the folks in one department are more trouble than they’re worth.
Meanwhile, a Colleague is someone with whom I have a mutual, reciprocal relationship that is ongoing; My relationship with colleagues isn’t (usually) influenced by monetary issues.
To describe the work we do in IT, I think “colleague” seems a better fit. In addition to the absence of choice I mentioned above, colleagues have working relationships that last far longer than any specific project or organizational structure. Mary in accounting used to be Mary in the typing pool; Before that she was Mary in the mail room and I saw her every day when she dropped off my mail and asked me about my kids. Next year, she’ll be Mary the V.P. of Finance.
What I’m getting at is that relationships matter far more than any specific bit of work we do.