"The Customer Is God"



This quote came from a frenetic Tom Peters slide deck (link above, see slide #14).


That sounds pretty much a lean philosophy to me. Make only what the customer wants, when she wants it, and how she wants it. The market decides everything, including the price of your product (you can't just take your costs and tack on your “entitled” profit).

Is this quote from Toyota? Is it from an American company?


It's a banner hanging at the Hua Xin Dress Co, Ltd., in the Rongcheng Industry Zone.

You know what scares me more than China's low costs? China figuring out lean faster and better than us Americans have.


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

  1. Eric Christiansen says

    Hmmmm, I’m always concerned when people chant any mantra that “customer is king” or “customer is God.”

    As Dr. Deming points out in The New Economics: “There is much talk about the customer’s expectations. Meet the customer’s expectations. The fact is that the customer expects only what you and your competitor have led him to expect.

    He goes on to point out that “the customer generates nothing” and then points out many of the things we enjoy today that were never asked for by a customer: electric lights, fax, telephone, tires with air (and we could add wireless phones, internet, blogs, email, iPods … the list goes on).

    Personally as I look at the “lean movement” this appears to be somewhat of a blind spot in the philosophy and may be the key reason why many lean companies go out of business: they spend too much time listening to the customer of today when they need to be creating the customer of the future.

  2. Tokyo Marketing & Communication Ltd. says

    Dear Mark,

    “The customer is God” was stated by Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Matsushita Electric Corporation in Japan and reflects the relation between buyer and seller. In Japan the buyer always have a superior position towards the seller which means what ever the customer request is, it needs to be full filled. This how customer’s being seen in Japan.

    See also link

    Tokyo Marketing & Communication Ltd.

    Jens Gulich

  3. Mike T says

    Eric’s comments about the customer are interesting. I see his point.

    However, I believe that if we truly listen to our customers, not just hear them, we would be led to the future. This is the genesis of innovation. If I hear my customer complaining about something, rather than listen to their complaint, I am likely only to meet their current need. If I listen to the complaint, strive to achieve the root cause, and pursue continuous improvement even once I have a solution, I will be pushing the barrier between now and the future.

    With respect to Eric, I think one of the reasons why Lean fails so often is we get complacent. We’ve met customer expectations, so there is no need to pursue continuous improvement. That is why the customer of the future catches us off-guard.

  4. Kenny says

    I do not agree for both, “customer is God” and ” customer is Kig”. really customer can not do any thing. according to economics, customer is a price taker, not the price maker. what i feel is customer is an actor who acts acording to the script of the Market.

  5. cihangir says

    if you produce a perfect product,the customer becomes a slave not king or god.you become king.

  6. Anil says

    Quality decides everything,

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