‘Who is our customer?’ sounds like a silly question. Someone walks into my pharmacy presenting a prescription, it’s obvious isn’t it? Well yes and no, if the prescription is for that person then they certainly are a customer, but if the person is the patient’s representative then what?

Big business talk about ‘Stakeholders’ and this is a valuable concept for all business as the aim here is to identify all those involved in an activity or transaction not just the end user. How we provide services or goods will or may be measured by others in the supply chain, and this is obviously important to understand.

Taking the above example let us look at some of the stakeholders:-

Patient – the obvious one, they will ask ‘have I got the right product?’, ‘is it well presented?’, ‘was there an owing?’

The Representative presenting the prescription at the pharmacy – they are also the direct customer, how you meet their expectations is vital in their evaluation as a customer. ‘Were the staff helpful, polite and attentive?’, ‘how long did I have to wait?’, ‘were the premises and staff well presented and professional?’

The NHS – Definitely a customer, ultimately they are commissioning and paying for the service. They will look at any complaints received; they may monitor NHS Choices feedback and may audit the business.

The Prescriber – probably not considered a customer but certainly a stakeholder. They may not choose us as the provider but indirectly we are providing services to them.

The Manufacturer/Supplier of the Product Supplied – again we might not consider them a customer but definitely a Stakeholder. They are expecting us to store and handle the product appropriately and supply it to the patient in a professional manner.

This gives some idea of the complexity of any transaction, knowing your stakeholders is vital to maximising your business opportunities and customer satisfaction. Another way to look at it is to ask the question ‘if there was complaint about my service, where could it come from?’