2f - Customers and suppliers

 What is a customer?
Usually a "customer" is seen as a person who orders and pays for a product or service.

There is also another way to understand the concept of "customer". A customer can be understood as contracting authority in a broader sense. A person who calls us to do a piece of work.

And then suddenly a colleague, supplier, collaborator or even an apprentice can be a customer.

The goal is, of course, a high level of satisfaction for the paying customer and, at the same time, producing and selling under satisfactory circumstances.

The same goal applies when the work is to be done for an internal contracting authority: to come up with the best solution for all parties, and under optimal conditions.
 Your customers and new target groups
The apprentice will probably not be familiar with your customers right away:
  • Are some customers more important than others?┬
  • Do you treat all customers the same? Or do you do anything special for certain customers?
Often it's easier to earn money on known customers than on new ones. This means it's important to treat present customers well, so they retain loyalty to the company.

There can be different groups of customers . Many companies divide customers into groups, depending on their importance for the company and the way they should be treated.
 Customer traits
Are your customers end-users or do you deliver products / services to resellers?

What is typical for your customers?
Do they have anything in common: Age, gender, income, profession, residence, preferred style, etc.? 

  • Do your apprentices have contact with the customers? What kind of contact does he/she have? 
  • What does the apprentice need to know about your end-users? Maybe the apprentice can be involved in things such as customer satisfaction surveys?
 New target groups
The market is continuously changing: Consumer patterns change, new technologies are created, we expand geographically, we get richer, older, etc.

This opens the way to new target groups, who until now were outside your circle of clientele.

Your apprentices are probably younger than you and can navigate other sub-cultures (youth culture). Maybe the apprentice even has access to a whole new target group for you?

Think for example about mobile phones, and how everyone owns one now!
 Dealing with customers
Your apprentice's relationship to customers should be based on the values your company lives by. Help the apprentice with:
  • Good form and manners 
  • Business insight 
  • Understanding the work flow 
  • Treatment of customers 
  • The customer's role for the company
Make sure the apprentice knows the rights customers have in your company or trade. Give the apprentice insight into customer groups and company policy!
As a company, you will deliver your products or services to either a distributor network, to end-users or to both. 
  • Give the apprentice an overview of your distributors and target groups. 
  • Describe the relationship between your distributors, as this may have an effect on production and delivery.
Do you see your distributors as partners in the effort to serve your end-users?
 Suppliers as production partners
In some trades, the main supplier is seen as a permanent partner. This is for example the case in the automotive sector, where importers play a decisive role. Or perhaps your company itself is a supplier partner to one or more of your big customers.

In other trades, the important thing is finding the bargain of the day/week, for example in the gastronomy sector. If your company has a regular supplier as a partner, your activities will no doubt be closely connected. As a trainer, you can probably make use of suppliers and their resources.

Example importer Volvo Personvogn (Denmark)
Volvo Personvogn Denmark services its distributors by sending trade journals, arranging competitions on product knowledge, etc.

A trainer could use several of these activities in training car mechanic apprentices.

Supplier-financed courses
Large suppliers will typically offer training in, for example, product knowledge, safety or sales training. A course like this for your apprentice should be planned and put into the personal education plan.

The trainer and apprentice will then learn about product development and specialised areas, something the school often cannot offer.

It is valuable for the apprentice to meet other apprentices from the same trade and specialisation. The trainer should be aware that supplier courses emphasize the suppliers' own products. The apprentice can therefore strengthen his/her arguments for sales or presentation to customers.

On the other hand, the apprentice may lack background knowledge of competing suppliers' products.

Example Volvo Personvogn (Denmark)
The Volvo importer arranges courses in driving technique with new Volvo models, as well as courses in new technologies.

Supplier materials for training
Suppliers often deliver materials that can be used in training. For example: 
  • Manuals. 
  • (Demo)models of the product. 
  • Measurement diagrams or bulletin boards. 
  • Recommendations for optimal use of their products. 
  • Research results. 
  • Newspaper articles. 
  • Simulations of the product's functioning in a graphic way (for example a cd with animation, chemical measuring devices, simulators, etc).
Some of these materials may be in a foreign language. Make sure the apprentice understands the material!

2 - The workplace