Profiling the External Customer

All organizations have one thing in common: they depend on customers to stay in business. There are many ways to make customers want, need, and even depend on particular products and services, but in order to create this relationship it is important to understand the customer.

Customers are multidimensional, which means they do not come in standard packages and act the same way. They have different backgrounds, expectations and experiences. Further complicating the issue, a customer may be buying the same service at two different times for two totally different reasons. Consider a restaurant patron who arrives one day with a group of business associates, but visits on another day with a group of friends for a special occasion. The two situations are entirely different from this customer’s perspective, and so too are his expectations different for each situation. The customer’s expectations at the business meal include timeliness and limited presence by the waiter. Expectations for the social meal are more relaxed, and the party of friends may want the waiter to be friendly and talkative. The individuals attending the social outing are probably not as concerned about time as people attending an afternoon lunch break from work.

The endless variables that describe the customer can be overwhelming. That is why it is important to work on creating a definition and profile of the customer. By creating a customer profile, we deepen our understanding of the customer. An accurate customer profile cannot be captured in a single sentence or one pithy definition, for that would not do justice to the real world situations we face with our customers. The profile does not, however, have to be overly complex either. What is needed is a foundation for understanding the customer. This foundation should account for the dynamics that underline customer wants, needs, and expectations, yet it should be usable, easy to remember, and easy to communicate across the organization.





A comprehensive approach to profiling our customers can be accurately completed in three steps. The steps consist of asking three simple questions about the customer:

  1. Who are they?
  2. What do they want or need?
  3. How have they changed?


*(Source: from the book Building A Customer Service Culture: The Seven ServiceElements of Customer Success, by Mario Martinez & Bob Hobbi)