Customer Oriented


Making customers and their needs a primary focus of one’s actions; developing and sustaining productive customer relations. A customer is defined as any person inside or outside the organization with whom you have a service relationship.  It includes supervisors and other employees. Click here for associated skills and behaviors.

Ways to Demonstrate this Skill

Development Activities

  • Actively seek information to help you understand customers’ circumstances, their problems, their needs, and their expectations.

  • Educate customers by sharing information with them. Help to build their understanding of issues and of CARE’s capabilities.

  • List your customers – all people for whom you provide a service. For each important customer:

  • List who their customers are – who do they have to satisfy? This will tell you a lot about what your customer’s needs and problems are. Consult with others to refine your list.

  • Use your list to ask your customers what you got right, and what you have missed.

  • When you are unable to provide all that your customer expects, explain what issues or constraints prevent your unit or CARE from being able to meet them. Practice this with a colleague first.


  • Build rapport and cooperative relationships with customers.

  • Establish mutual respect.

  • Set the groundwork for cooperation by supporting customers’ needs and goals.

  • Acknowledge your mistakes right away and take remedial action.

  • Show respect for all individuals (see Respect).

  • Go out of your way to ask customers about their needs and goals, and remember them.

  • Look for opportunities to suggest actions that will help your customers meet their needs and goals.

  • Discuss with a trusted colleague the occasions when people have won your respect by acknowledging mistakes, and vice versa.


  • Before implementing new plans or actions, consider how they will affect your customers.

  • When customer needs or problems arise, act quickly to resolve them.

  • When possible, proactively avoid customer problems by looking ahead.

  • Based on customer feedback plus your knowledge of CARE’s vision and values, propose improvements to CARE policy, processes or procedures.

  • To the extent possible, discuss new plans, policies or procedures with the customers who will be affected. Work with them to identify both problems and benefits of the new approach, and collaboratively address problems as needed.

  • When customers identify a need or a problem, do something right away to address it: at the very least, acknowledge it and say when it will be resolved. Use your own knowledge, your colleagues, manager and internal network to find quick, practical solutions. Be realistic in your promises. If resolving the issue will require time, create a tickler file so it isn’t forgotten. Keep the customer informed of progress.

  • Identify opportunities to do something beyond what a customer expects.


  • Set up a customer feedback system to monitor and evaluate how well you and your work area are handling:

  • Customer concerns and issues

  • Providing satisfaction

  • Anticipating customer needs.

  • Regularly ask customers what you are doing that is helpful to them, and what could be improved. Also ask what needs are on the horizon for them, so you can anticipate what will need to be done.

  • Keep a tickler file on customer requests, fulfillments, and problems in order to track what you promised and what they received.



Developmental Resources


     If you find workshops a good way for you to learn and develop, and there are funds available, look for classes or workshops that address the following:

For Employees at all levels:

  • General skills in active listening and building rapport with others

  • Specific skills in listening to customers, establishing rapport, identifying needs, handling complaints, and confirming customer satisfaction

  • Discussing ways to improve service

  • Managing customer relationships.

For Managers and Supervisors:

  • Keeping customer service standards and techniques as a priority throughout the organization

  • Using effective leadership, communication, and listening skills

  • Coaching and supporting direct reports in service activities.



    The following books are resources on Customer Orientation:

Anderson, K. and Zemke, R. (1998) Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service. Publisher: AMACOM. ASIN: 0814479707.

Griffiths, Andrew (2003) 101 Ways to Really Satisfy Your Customers. Publisher Allen & Unwin Pty., Limited. ISBN: 1865087440.

Karten, N. and Wienberg, G. M. (1994) Managing Expectations: Working With People Who Want More, Better, Faster, Sooner, Now! Publisher: Dorset House. ISBN: 0932633277.

Linden, Russell M. (2002). Working Across Boundaries: Making Collaboration Work in Government and Nonprofit Organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. ISBN: 0787964301.

Morgan, Rebecca L. (1996) Calming Upset Customers (The 50-Minute Series). Menlo Park, CA: Crisp Publications. ASIN: 1560523840.




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