Three Vital Tips for Managing Client Relationships to Avoid Business Breakups
During my sophomore year of high school, I met a girl named Julie, who was a senior. We dated for a couple of months at the start of the school year, and as high school dating goes, we eventually got bored with each other and mutually agreed to breakup. I felt like we were still friends and our relationship ended on good terms.
Fast forward to the end of the school year when yearbooks were published. I was flipping through mine when a feature caught my eye. Graduating seniors were asked about memorable moments like, “Who was your favorite teacher?” or “What class did you enjoy most this year?”
At the bottom of the page I saw Julie’s picture and next to it the question, “What is the biggest mistake of your life?” Notice that it was not specific to this school year, or even high school, but to her entire life. Julie responded with three words.
“Dating a sophomore.”
Customer relationships work very much the same as our interpersonal relationships. If a customer breaks up with you, they may turn around and say bad things behind your back, even when you think things ended on good terms. Following are three common mistakes that businesses make in their customer relationships.
You need to know what it means to be in a relationship. While phrases like customer service, customer experience, and customer relationship are sometimes used interchangeably, they are quite different. Imagine going to your favorite restaurant—customer service is specific to the interpersonal interactions you may have with a host, a server, or the restaurant manager.
The experience includes the totality of everything that happens from when you arrive at the restaurant to when you leave. Things like restroom cleanliness, quality of food, or a promotion on the menu all contribute to the experience but have little to do with service.
In the same way that service is a smaller part of the overall experience, repeated experiences build a lasting relationship. Service interactions have a start and an end as do experiences. Relationships have a start, but they don’t have to end if they are adequately maintained.
You need to know what kind of a relationship you have with your customer. There is a spectrum of customer relationship stages. Consider that to your customer you may be a(n)…
Stranger – Your desired customer has never heard of you.
Prospect – Your customer has heard of you, and is interested in your product or services, but has yet to do business with you.
Rumor – Your customer has heard of you, but only in a negative way from their friends. This customer passively avoids your business.
Fling – Your customer did business with you once or twice, but you haven’t taken the steps to show them that you are ready to take things to the next level.
Acquaintance – Your customer is more than a fling, but still not a solid relationship. Your customer does business with you out of an occasional necessity for your product or because of a high-quality promotion.
Friend – Your customer likes you and does business with you often. They trust you and are very loyal. However, an unresolved bad experience or two could still lead to a breakup.
Ex! – Your customer broke up with you. As a Fling, Acquaintance, or Friend, you disappointed your customer, and didn’t fix the problem. Your customer tells their friends about how they regret their relationship with you (also making you a Rumor) and actively avoid doing business with you.
Best Friend – Your customer knows thrives in a loyal business relationship with you. They believe you have proven yourself time and again. When you have done things that disappointed your customer, you immediately fixed the problem. Now when you experience problems in your relationships, your customer knows that you will resolve their concern, and they give you the opportunity to do so.
You need to know how to move to the next stage of the relationship. Every business wants to be in a Best Friend relationship with every one of their customers, and they should. However, most companies don’t understand that different customers are at different stages of the relationship, and each must move along the spectrum to arrive at Best Friend.
How do you move your customers from one stage to the next?
There’s no single answer.
Every customer is different. Each service interaction or customer experience is an opportunity to learn more about what your customer likes, needs, and wants—and then make it happen to build your relationship.
I can go more in-depth on this, but I know you’re busy so let’s keep it short. The next article will be a deeper exploration of how you can move customer relationships to the next stage.