I got into a rather interesting discussion with a friend recently. He works in higher education and asked me the following question after reading my blog post Considering “workplace levers” in office politics…
“At a university, who is your customer…the student or the parent of the student?”
My response was quick..
The student is the customer… the college student is around 18 years of age, and thus has the final decision to attend the institution. Yes, their parents have great influence in their college decisions; but it’s my opinion that colleges must treat the student as the customer because they’re the folks attending class, living on campus, and being active members of the student body. Additionally, many student’s take on student loan debt even when parents do have the ability to make payments towards their children’s college education.
Ultimately, students graduate and become alumni. The alumni hopefully become donors to continue the advancement of the institution. If the university mistakenly treats parents as the customer throughout these formative four to five years the student is on campus—there is the potential that the graduates won’t become actively engaged in efforts to both donate and raise donations.
My friend’s response…
You’re wrong! Parents are the customers because they’re paying the bills!
Who won this argument you might ask?
This round and round again debate got me thinking…
How often do managers ask themselves, “who is my customer and why?” In my scenario the university is the business and the customer(s) are the student and/or parent.
So the business owner and/or manager has a decision to make.
- Who is my customer and why?
- What is the criteria in selecting a customer?
- When the customer has been selected; how do we market to this segment appropriately?
A short list of factors to consider when selecting and defining your customer:
- Who is the buyer of goods?
- Who is the active shopper of goods?
- Who influences the purchase?
- Who makes the final decision?
Ultimately, the business has to understand who their customer is to effectively market their product. Effective marketing is tough; as marketing to the wrong audience can have a negative effect on the long term health and growth of the company.
For example…does a children’s toy company create an advertisement campaign geared toward the child or the parent?
Who is your customer? And what decision trees did you employ to come to your conclusion?