We’d like to have our relationships with our customers fit together as smoothly as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle just snap into place.
But it’s easy to screw things up if we’re not careful.
In the last two months I’ve had a chance to watch an air conditioner repair company make all of these mistakes.
They showed me several ways this relationship can get really screwed up, take twice as long to get half as much done, and leave everyone really ticked off.
Some people seem to have the sole purpose in life of serving as a bad example, and these guys had it down pat.
For the rest of us, it doesn’t matter what kind of business we have. Retail, consulting, internet sales, service, or even MLM, being aware of these principles are what keeps the cash register ringing.
1. Keep Your Commitments
This is the 1st Commandment of building good relationships.
Do what you said you were going to do, and do it when you said you were going to do it.
If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how good you are at anything else, people will see it as your attempt to put lipstick on a pig.
My A/C company was one big FAIL on this issue. Over a course of 8 weeks I had 5 different appointments set with them, and they missed every single one.
Actually, I came to believe that the only reason they gave me appointments was to get me off the phone.
They never had any intention of keeping them and they never called to notify me or reschedule, they just didn’t show up.
When they finally did show up, they didn’t call to let me know they were coming. At least they were consistent.
To me, and probably to you, this is inexcusable. The message it gave to me about my importance to them was not a good one.
No one wants to be an afterthought. Every customer wants to feel that they’re important to the vendor. If they do, they’ll tend to cut you some slack on other issues.
If they don’t, nothing you do will ever be good enough.
2. Don’t Make Assumptions – Seller Side
Why do we like to assume that our customers know as much about our product as we do? Just because it’s simple and obvious to us doesn’t mean much.
In fact, if there’s an issue it’s usually best to assume that the customer is as lost as an alien from Alpha Centauri at Mardi Gras.
It’s better to annoy the customer with basic questions that they’ve already considered than skip something and waste everyone’s time marching down the road to nowhere.
Asking detailed questions also helps the customer to feel that you’re taking the problem seriously, and that you’re being thorough.
Being really fast to jump to a conclusion only works if you’re right. If you’re not correct, the customer will often perceive you as sloppy and uncaring.
And they might be right.
In my case, the A/C company assumed that I knew several things about A/C cycles that I didn’t and it made it hard for me to determine whether it was fixed or not.
That’s where the basic instruction for customers is so important.
They may have false or unreasonable expectations, sometimes caused by marketing hype and sometimes caused by wishful thinking or incorrect information.
Those assumptions determine what they think of you and your product, so take the time to be clear.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions – Customer Side
I had to throw this in, because at times we’re the customer and we can screw things up from that side of the transaction.
We think we know how things should work. Sometimes we’re wrong.
I’m speaking mostly to us guys now, because women seem to have less ego tied up in what they know or don’t know, and find it easier to ask questions.
However, many of us (guys) make assumptions rather than admitting that we don’t understand.
If the vendor isn’t being thorough, we need to ask and keep asking until we get what we need.
In my case, I thought that if the A/C was blowing hot air, it was broken. So I’d turn it off and then back on to reset it, not knowing that there was a five-minute delay before it came back on.
When it didn’t start right away, I was sure it was broken.
How do we do that in life? We insist that circumstances and products have to conform to the way that we assume they should work.
It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing; not very productive. Don’t assume, ask.
4. Stay In Touch
Which leads me to marketing lesson #4 from this fiasco. Let’s not ever leave our customers wondering.
Find ways to stay in touch with them. Build relationships when there isn’t a problem. It’ll make your life, and theirs, a lot easier when the occasional problem does pop up.
Take a look at your product funnel and see what you need to do to stay in touch. How can you engage on social media or email? How can you better document what you do to answer questions in advance?
So there’s the four lessons – keep commitments, ask and listen carefully, stay in touch. Not difficult but very important.
Have you had a bad experience as a customer or vendor? What have you found that builds lasting relationships? Let us know in the comments.