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Customers, clients, coworkers or colleagues?

People view these ‘c’ words differently and the associations they represent differently.

We in extension communications create products for extension subject specialists. So are those people our customers, our clients, our coworkers or our colleagues?

Think about relationship marketing
It is designing business strategies that emphasize keeping customers as much as attracting them. You invest the time and resources to know individuals. In return, you get loyalty and commitment.

Isn’t that what we do inside our organizations? Build relationships on the ability to respond to the needs of others.

A Yale University study showed that work groups’ performance suffered when members didn’t communicate well or didn’t pay attention to one another’s feelings or when individuals became so controlling that they didn’t allow others to contribute.

When people treat one another with civility, that is, with respect, the result is positive synergistic results. People motivate one another. The combined efforts are better than a person working alone.

Do we treat our customers, our clients, our coworkers and our colleagues differently?

I think those inside our organization we work with have all those labels……..but we really need to think in those terms. It’s a dichotomy to treat those we consider our customers with the utmost respect and then send a snippy or condescending email to a coworker.

If I’m snippy and condescending to everyone, then I’m consistent…….but not civil. And frankly, I’d bet you’d just as soon not work with me….whether you’re my customer, client, coworker or colleague.


I am thinking how this also applies to 4-H volunteers who work with youth and their families. To retain 4-H members in club settings, we are encouraging volunteers to develop strong relationships with both the members and the parents. I'm going to find a way to get today's column out to our volunteers. Thanks!

This is a very diverse subject and great that you bring it to light. In agreement with you, these 'c' words most definitely have different meanings to everyone.

A challenge to your "Extension Communications" group... Do you truly respond to the needs of others, or do you tell those others what they need? Is Extension Communications asking enough questions of their audience before responding? How does Extension know what to respond with? What measures are in place to evaluate your impact, your effectiveness, and the satisfaction of the customers, clients, coworkers or colleagues?

To disagree with you on the statement, "You invest the time and resources to know individuals. In return, you get loyalty and commitment", you do not -get- loyalty and commitment. You must EARN it. Simply investing time and resources to know and deliver a service, a good, or some task does not automatically get you your customers, clients, coworkers or colleagues' loyalty and commitment. Quality, timeliness, responsiveness, and civility must be displayed and freely offered at all times to all customers, clients, coworkers or colleagues, external and internal.

Hopefully, a future post from within this book or just another post in general could discuss how to handle those who falsely believe they are finding solutions, being responsive, courteous, helpful, and innovative, display professional humility, and accurately assess client needs and properly evaluate impacts. As a false belief in which a person is actually doing these, when they truly are not, is actually more toxic to the work environment altogether than knowingly being snippy, condescending, or uncivil.

Coworker Joe,
I can think of many routes to take in response ..probably as you suggest, best done with additional posts. Sincerely..Thanks for the inspiration.

But some simple reactions here. Iowa State is a research institution. I believe service units need to use research. On Dec. 1, Extension Communications and External Relations started using a project evaluation form. Projects of four to 19 hours duration get one question—the Net Promoter Score. Projects of 20 hours or more are evaluated with additional questions.

I totally agree the word ‘earn’ is a much better one than the word ‘get’ when talking about garnering respect.

I’ve never understood what ‘professional humility’ means. To me, there’s simply ‘humility’.

What does anyone else want to add (with civility)?