Customer-Supplier Expectations

German Approach

The German customer expects the supplier to complete the requested task correctly and expertly, meaning almost without error. The task is to be completed within schedule and budget.

These boundary conditions should be negotiated and held to as precisely as possible. Germans, however, will sacrifice schedule and budget in order to receive the product or service they ordered. 

Patterns

American Approach

The American customer expects the supplier of a product or a service to complete a specific job. This task is defined by the customer. The customer, in other words, orders a product or service.

The customer expects the supplier to orient himself fully towards her individual needs and to respond as quickly as possible. At the same time, the supplier is expected to adapt to any change in scope of the task. 

Patterns

German View

The German supplier can become frustrated with American customers who specify their requests unclearly, constantly revise them, or alter greatly the original scope. This all makes solid planning difficult.

From the German perspective, there is inadequate willingness on the part of the customer to adapt flexibly to the processes of the solution-provider. For, the solution requested is a product of internal processes.

American View 

Americans, from the reverse point of view, deem the German supplier to be inflexible. He demands too much of the customer in the initial phase. Often the American customer is not in a position to supply adequate information to the solution provider.

Nonetheless, it is felt that the supplier can begin the early stage of work. The internal processes of the German supplier can appear rigid and bureaucratic to the American customer.

Advice to Germans

American customers expect you to orient your expertise and services to their needs. From your perspective customers need you just as much as you need them. You, therefore, expect them to respect and balance their needs with how you work. Handle this subtle dance, this search for balance, carefully and with diplomacy. Otherwise, your American client could gain the impression that you are inflexible and not customer-oriented. 

The belief that the customer is king is taken seriously in the U.S. Stay focused on customer needs, but also take the time to carefully and patiently describe where your internal work processes cannot be modified. Remind your customer diplomatically that choosing you as their solution means choosing how you work. Demonstrate flexibility in your work, but remain firm when it comes to delivering what the customer expects.

Advice to Americans

Before making a request for services, German customers have thought through carefully what they want. They are ready to enter into a business relationship. They will expect from the supplier a persuasive explanation of their methods and processes. And since a mutual give-and-take between customer and supplier is normal in the German context, your German customer anticipates adapting themselves to some extent to how you work. 

This might surprise you. For in America the customer is supposed to be king. Be prepared for specific and exact questions from your German customer about what and how you do things. If you see the need for the customer request to be modified based on your internal processes, address these as early as possible. Modifications later will be difficult to explain to your German customer.

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