“Here in U.S. the customer is at the center of what we do. Our German colleagues do not think that way. They actually say: ‘You need to stand up to the customer re: what they need and how they should buy from us.’

Our response: ‘No, we are customer-centric. We cannot do that.’ The German response is then: ‘Tell the customer that they should just try our product. They will like it.’

It comes down to who customers want to work with. Coming in cold, calculating, factual, analytical does not work with Americans. Every relationship is personal first. How can we get our German colleagues to understand this?”

The questioner states:

“Here in U.S. the customer is at the center of what we do. Our German colleagues do not think that way.”

Wait, stop!

Are the Germans not customer-oriented? Seriously. Only eighty million people. Country no bigger than the US-state of Montana. Yet, fourth-largest economy in the world.

Either there are a lot of really dumb customers out there buying stuff from the Germans. Or German products are so great that a lack of customer-orientation does not matter. Or, maybe just maybe, the Germans are customer-oriented.

So, is the American perception wrong that the Germans are not customer-oriented? Or could it be that Americans and Germans define customer-orientation differently? And when we say Americans and Germans we mean also American customers and German customers.

Let’s go deep.

First, our core content on Consult vs. Serve within the topic Customer; then Professional vs. Personal within Communication; after that “Friendly Incompetence” and Frau Schmitz.

And to really blow the minds of my fellow Americans, see “You got it wrong”, about me and one of my biggest customers fighting with each other (verbally) in a public space. You’ll love it!

According to CI’s content under the topic Customer, for Germans to serve is to consult. In Germany, both customer and supplier strive for a balanced relationship. In fact, it is considered by both parties to be an obligation and a duty to provide advice, to consult.

Yet, often we here in the U.S. are faced with situations in which the approach taken by our German colleagues leads to an unbalanced relationship.

Their actions, reactions, positions do what is in the best interest of the company with our headquarters back in Germany, and often not what is best for the customer or the overall relationship with the customer.

In fact, our American customers are often treated as if they are serving us, instead of the other way around. And this despite increasing competition and fast changing markets which present viable alternatives to the solutions we are currently providing.

When challenged and presented with all the arguments from the customer’s perspective, I often find that the situation can be changed, that a customer-friendly solution can be identified.

This however, is achieved only after we in the U.S. have demonstrated that we have challenged the customer and established what is actually required to solve their problems and meet their needs.

How do we combine the power of the consultative approach with maintaining a high degree of service- and customer-orientation, while at the same time increasing speed to create a competitive advantage?

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