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Internal customer: by design or by default

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The core concept of "customer" in marketing began as a buyer of business goods and services. It was extended into non-business areas such as education, health, politics and religion. Now it stands poised to enter organisational life. At issue here is our understanding of what it means to be a "customer". Aims to question the legitimacy of applying the concept "customer" to employees. In exploring this makes a contrast between the "traditional" customer as we have come to know it and "life" as an employee. Suggests a test of legitimacy in which a number of factors characteristic of the "traditional" customer are discussed with a view to determining whether they can accommodate the employee as a potential internal customer. Concludes that the concept is inappropriate for employees given what is known of organisational life and the employees' place within it. There is considerable conceptual elasticity in the way the concept "customer" is being used that will cast serious doubt over the prospect for the achievement of internal marketing aims.
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Keywords: Customers; Employees; Internal Marketing; Organizational Analysis; Tests and Testing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2003

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