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. In addition, the German customer wants to know the method and approach applied to his problem.

He expects to be persuaded by the solution's validity and effectiveness. Once the work has begun, the customer in the German context wants to be informed about the progress, but neither on a constant basis nor in a detailed way.

On the other hand, the supplier of a product or service in the German context expects from the customer a clearly defined mandate to perform a specific task, job or project. The customer should know beforehand what he wants and communicate it clearly.

There is less tolerance than in the US for a customer who comes with a poorly thought-through request in need of revision. The customer should take into account how the supplier works. In a way, the customer must respect the needs of the expert.

This includes adapting the request to the expert's processes. To guaranty effective communication, the customer should provide a designated contact person. In the end, the supplier expects from the client the security that his efforts will be compensated fully, on schedule and with little bureaucracy.

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. This also includes the modification of internal processes in order to serve the customer. The American customer instinctively expects more effort (Leistung) than was agreed upon originally. Along with customer orientation (flexibility and speed), the American customer wants a low price. Costs should be held to a minimum.

The external expert in the American context expects from the customer that requests are as well-defined as possible. The customer should clearly think through what they are buying. This is the basis for serving the client.

The scope of the work, therefore, should be defined so as to avoid unnecessary additional work. In the end, the supplier of a product or service expects work scope predictability, as well as the security that his efforts will be compensated fully, on schedule and with little bureaucracy.

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 for the the solution provider.

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

Advice to Germans

Your American customer - whether external or corporate internal - expects that you orient your expertise and services to his specific needs. From your perspective, the customer needs you just as much as you need him.

You, therefore, expect the customer to respect and balance his needs with the way in which you put your expertise to work for him. Handle this subtle dance, this search for balance, carefully and with diplomacy. Otherwise, your American client could gain the impression that you are inflexible or 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, the German customer has thought through carefully what he wants. He is ready to enter into a business relationship. He 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 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.