Customer – Consult vs. Serve

German Approach

The Germans prefer consulting over serving. To consult the customer, to consult with the customer, is to work auf Augenhöhe, literally at eye-level, with the customer. The German people instinctively reject any form of master-slave business relationship.

And, the German customer prefers a supplier, consultant, vendor who insists on a business relationship auf Augenhöhe. Germans don’t want to be served, they want to bbe consulted, by an expert, at eye-level. It is a shared logic. All companies are both customer and supplier.

Patterns

American Approach

Americans do not make as clear a distinction between serving and consulting. They go hand-in-hand. Two sides of the same coin. Consulting is always a service to the customer.

Serving should always include bringing into play ones subject matter expertise. However, an American consultant, supplier, vendor, seldom sees themselves at eye-level with the customer. The customer is in charge.

And the American customer sees the relationship in the same way. It is a shared logic, a shared understanding. American customers want to be served. And yes, they want an expert. But an expert who is fully oriented towards their needs, as defined by them, the customer.

Patterns

German View

Germans can find their American colleagues to be too eager to serve the customer in ways which are imbalanced. It can appear to them that Americans jump into action at the faintest sign of a request from the customer. From the German perspective, American customers are too, or unrealistically, demanding. 

To truly serve the client means to maintain your independence and autonomy, in order to objectively advise the customer of how to solve their problems. In the end, the German customer neither respects nor wants a servant, but instead an expert who is willing to place their expertise at the center of the business relationship.