Augenhöhe. Literally eye-level. To be at eye-level with each other. Germans reject any form, even the slightest indication, of a one-sided customer-supplier relationship. One-sided in the sense of imbalance, a working relationship in which the one is master, the other slave.
For Germans, implicit in any business relationship is a transaction, an exchange, a trade. A problem is solved. A need is satisfied. A lack of expertise in a particular area, on a specific question, is provided from the outside. Manufacturing needs better technology. The company needs advice concerning tax law. Another company needs help with marketing, logistics, personnel, product packaging, research and development.
The list of possible business transactions is infinite. People, teams, companies collaborate, work together, because one has something the other needs, and will exchange it for something of value.
Germans are very sensitive to maintaining balance in any form of collaboration. The German customer wants in a supplier, service provider or consultant: someone who insists on working with them at eye-level, who is self-confident, knows her own worth, and rejects any working relationship which can lead to an imbalance.
The German customers want the best possible work results, input, support from suppliers, service providers, and consultants. They do not want those who react immediately to each and every desire, idea, or spontaneous thought they might have, as if the client had issued a purchase order.
Often the customer is not in a position to recognize what is best for them. And every customer is, in turn, a supplier, service provider or consultant to another company in another business relationship. That’s what business means. Today customer, tomorrow supplier.
The Germans would far more prefer to consult than to serve. Consulting is knowledge- / expertise-based. To give advice. Two parties standing at eye-level to each other. Balance. Listen, discuss, decide, act. The one side pays for it. Of course. But for the Germans, the customer is never king. And the supplier, service provider, consultant is never slave.