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Wait, I Have How Many Customers?

How many customers do you have on a project? Is it one? Maybe two? How many interactions do you have with customers each day?

What if I told you that everyone is your customer? What if I told you your customer is not only your client, but every person you interact with in your day. And these customers are extremely influential in your success, as value is determined by your customer. Lean construction has changed the way I looked at "customers".

I originally thought I had one, maybe two customers on my projects. The clients PM and maybe one other individual from the clients stakeholder team. As I dove into lean principles and tools, I soon learned that just about everyone is my customer. My trade partner foreman and PMs are my customer, my internal project team is my customer and the client certainly is my customer. If you can reframe your thought process to see everyone as your customer, you will lead with respect (because we always treat our customers with respect, right?). In most of your day to day interactions there is a transaction taking place. Someone is asking for something and a different someone is providing something. Isn't that the same way that a customer interacts with a business owner or employee?

What does it look like to treat everyone as your customer? For starters, you ask questions to find out what they are looking for and then you do everything in your power to meet those expectations. You want to know the specifics of what they are requesting and what their expectations are. Here is a simple example for you:

Your electrical foreman is telling you that they need the electrical room cleaned out before they can complete the wire pull and bring power into the building. Without asking any clarifying questions, you send a labor crew to the room and they sweep the room quickly and head out for the day. The next morning, an army of electricians show up to pull wire and complete their scope, only to be met with less that desired conditions. The electrical foreman comes in the trailer hot and heavy and expresses his dissatisfaction with the room. You are baffled, as you sent the labor crew to clean the space, and they confirmed that they did it! You dig in a little, and the foreman informs you that the cleaning he need was not only for the room to be swept, but for the panel cans to be vacuumed out and the room to be mopped. You didn't know this because you did not ask clarifying questions. Had you taken a few extra minutes to ask what he was looking for and having him DEFINE his expectations, you could have met those expectations, delivered value and kept the team on schedule.

This is a simple example, but one that clearly shows how a daily interaction can be shaped by the mindset you bring to the table. If we think of everyone as our customer, we treat them with respect, we clearly understand expectations and we do our best to meet those expectations. If we all took this mindset into our projects, could you imagine how much more successful we would be?

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