A major medical supply company called Medline is in the process of being acquired. It is an organization that has grown by leaps and bounds, particularly over the last decade. It is currently a family-owned business, and the member of that family that serves as President of the organization is named Andy Mills.
Several years ago, Mr. Mills was part of a conversation with other healthcare executives, and each person was asked to describe how they treat their best customers. Mr. Mills said that Medline doesn’t have any “best” customers. According to a recent article, he stated that “Once you say one customer is more important, you’re giving your team permission to not give their best effort to everybody. We want everybody to get our best effort. I really believe that, and from day one we emphasize how what they’re working on matters to our customers and end users.”
Now Mr. Mills was not saying that all customers are the same, or all have the same concerns or priorities, or that all customers bring in the same revenue to the business. He said that they don’t identify any particular customers as better than the others. This may seem like a little bit of a nuanced response, but it’s extremely important.
Every customer we have, no matter the issue or the amount of sales they account for in our business, every customer is important; every customer should be valued; no customer should be viewed as being better than others.
I remember a story of a general – decades ago – in the Army who allowed one of the servicemen to make a previously unscheduled visit home. One of the general’s key staff came into his office and professionally suggested to the general that he should not have treated that one serviceman special. The general replied: “I try to treat everyone special.”
Regardless of the financial value of the person standing in front of us, every one of them has value. None are better or worse than the previous customer. We can’t view customers as being better or worse than others. We need to view them all equally, and if that means that they are ALL the best, that we need to treat them ALL special, then so be it.
Don’t turn on the light switch of excellence for only certain customers. Provide consistently great customer service.