Customer is not King

In Germany, at the beginning of the business relationship the responsibility for how the work is done – methods and approaches – is transferred from the customer to the supplier. For the customer has contracted the expert to solve a problem, to complete a task, to manage a project. It is expected that the expert do so with limited involvement of the customer. For the two parties have already discussed and agreed on the details of how the work will be done.

The German client, therefore, wants to know upfront the methods and approaches used by the supplier. At the same time, the customer respects how the supplier works, including adapting customer requirements to supplier methods and approaches. In the end the supplier has the say about her own processes, which produce the results desired by the customer.

Every product and service is a clear indication of how a company works, their methods and approaches. And German customers are deeply interested in how the work is done. They want to understand how the supplier works. They want to be convinced by the supplier‘s expertise. The German customer also knows that the success of the business relationship will depend on close collaboration, on the coordination of work processes from both sides.

Whenever a company as the customer contracts an external supplier, they are implicitly admitting to a gap in their own expertise, implicitly stating that the area of expertise of the supplier is not a part of the their own core expertise. Companies small and large, regional and international, are constantly defining what their core expertise is, what business they are in. Defining that means defining what external suppliers they need to draw on.

This is one reason why for Germans the customer is not king, but instead a partner. German suppliers expect, and in many cases demand, that the customer accept them as partners, accept a partnership of equals, auf Augenhöhe, literally at eye‘s level.

Germans see a customer-supplier relationship as complementary, with each side having its respective strengths and weaknesses, its core and non-core areas. To do business together means to help fill each other‘s gaps in expertise, to complement each other, to serve each other.