Friday, May 22, 2009

Promoting the importance of “The Customer” in Lean Times

I saw a quote from Brian Buck (@BrianBuck) on Twitter the other day that really resonated with me.  The quote was attributed to Gandhi and stated ….

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

While most business people would say they agree with Gandi, how many truly promote the importance of “The Customer” within their business?  Is it engrained in their culture?  What do they really know about their clients?  With today’s technology, many businesses capture specific customer data on their clients, but fail to use it!  It cannot be stressed enough that increased customer loyalty can make or break a company in slow economic times.

During times of economic expansion, many companies view customer service as an expense that drains the bottom line.  In lean times, companies cannot afford this type of “relationship arrogance.”  In fact, companies need to maintain and enhance their business relationships.  One way to maintain and grow these relationships is to invest in customer service by ensuring that your customer’s most critical needs/requirements are being fulfilled.

Can Lean Six Sigma tools help you gain an understanding about your customers?  Yes, histograms are a perfect tool to visually display your customer detail or any other data that can be easily ranged into groups.  Classically, a histogram would be defined as a graphic summation and display the frequency of data items in successive bins/classes.  The most common histogram has the dependent variable (frequency) plotted on the vertical axis and the independent variable is plotted on the horizonal axis.  The independent variable data is grouped into bins (data ranges). 

The Lean Six Sigma graph below demonstrates a histogram being used to graphically display the grades of students in an Online Discussion Forum.  In this example, the grade occurring with the highest frequency was B. The histogram also shows that the grades are skewed to the right (toward the lower end of the grading spectrum).

As a histogram is being constructed, it is necessary to group the data into equal size bins/classes.  In the case of the example, the bins are grades.  While the bin groupings are arbitrary, care must be taken when they are established.  Too few or too many bins can distort the conclusions drawn from the data.

Histograms are the perfect tool for looking at frequency of occurrence within groups of data.  When looking specifically at customer information, the applications are endless with potential independent variables such as age, gender, average sale, etc.  Collecting data and not using it is the ultimate waste.

Not recognizing the importance of “The Customer” is equivalent to not unlocking your doors at the start of the business day.  Remember, “The Customer” is a company’s most important asset.  Without customers, you have no business. 


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Related Article: “It’s Never About the Number, It Is What the Number is Saying about the Business.”


To visit Brian Buck’s blog and see more improvement quotes:


Post Author: Royce Williard

Copyright 2009 The Williard Group



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