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Do You Know What’s In Your Customer Handbook?

As a small business owner or solopreneur, cultivating customer relationships is a vital part of doing business, but not everyone is so successful in this area. The strength and longevity of your customer relationships are determined by how much effort you make to understand who your customers are.

It’s in the Kid Handbook…

I am fortunate to have been blessed with three small kids. Over the past few years, through all the predictable trials and tribulations of being a parent, I’ve come to recognize a fundamental truth: they come with a handbook.

It’s in this superlative manual that it states what it means to be a kid. According to the Kid Handbook, to be a kid means they have an almost unquenchable curiosity, they have fewer inhibitions, and there is a lot to life that they have yet to learn. Sometimes they will make a mess, say something inappropriate, throw a tantrum (or something else), hit, and not listen to those who even attempt to discipline them.

While parenting may sometimes be hard for us as adults, especially when we’re confronted with undesirable behaviors, the simple truth is that our kids are doing what their supposed to- they’re being kids. The more we can accept this idea, the easier it becomes to handle the situation when they’re just being impossible and even get them to over to our side. The amazing thing is that we can even learn something new in the process, like that my oldest daughter loves pizza, hates meatballs, her favorite color is purple, and when she is overly hungry or tired she is a force to be reckoned with.

Everyone Comes with a Handbook

In truth, each and every one of us comes with our own personal handbook, and as we go through life, forming and building relationships with other people, our job is to become familiar with some measure of the pages and chapters that define them. This is particularly relevant to those in business, because business fundamentally revolves around the relationships we build and maintain with our business partners, employees, vendors, investors, and… our customers.

How Well Do You Know Your Customers?

It’s amazing to me how many business owners (and by extension their employees) are somewhat clueless when it comes to their customers (at best), and downright condescending or even antagonistic towards them (at worst). Needless to say, this does not make for a good business model.

In almost every case, if you want to be successful in business then you need to be clear about the messages stamped in the pages of your customer handbook. In the customer handbook, it states that customers today are looking for value (and sometimes the bar is set very high), engagement (but only on their terms), and personalization.

But there may be other entries in there as well, for example:

  • Sometimes your customers will ask for things that may not be the best for themselves or their businesses, and it becomes your job to learn how to get them to “see the light” and to also know where to let go if they refuse to take the message.
  • There is increasing reliance on and influence of social networks in the buying decision. In this case, it becomes your job to learn how your customers are using these social networks when considering your products or services.
  • Some of your customers may be going through a hard time, financially or otherwise, and sometimes they may not be so pleasant to work for. You’re job is to learn how to deal with their attitude in an appropriate and effective way.

Bottom line, the next time your customers make you feel frustrated or leave you scratching your head in wonderment, just remember, they’re doing what they are supposed to do- they’re being customers. It’s your job to learn what makes them tick.

So,do you know what’s in your customer handbook? What were some vital new lessons you have learned while working with customers and building relationships with them? What do you still need to learn?

(Image Credit)

Adam Gottlieb is a small business owner, freelance writer, and small business consultant with over ten years experience helping small and home-based businesses improve their image, increase sales and better manage their resources (both the animate and inanimate ones). You can find him blogging at The Frugal Entrepreneur and Growing Your Business

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  • Hi Adam, great post and super reminders to us all! My job to learn how to get them to u201csee the lightu201d? My opinion on this has changed somewhat over the last number of years. Some customers hire me for my advice and are in a position to take all or most of it on board; some people hire me because they want to appear like they are getting the right type of advice. nnAt the start, this frustrated me greatly and I persevered with this relationships only to be continually frustrated, the reality been that with time I thought I could eventually get through to the particular person. Then a while back I decided to only work with people who were in a position to work with me, and hey presto, my business life became a whole lot more satisfying. nnThis is one of the reasons I love social media, it helps the right type of customers to find me. It almost acts like a kind of lighthouse for me guiding the right types of customers in my direction. Thanks for sharing, Nialln

  • Engaging with an “expert” and then trying to control the outcome is probably a pet hate for most service providers, especially web designers and similar fields.nLuckily, in my profession, the client always drives the process, even if it is not the best choice. I believe there is a learning opportunity for them to realise, that every choice we make as a human being may not look like the best one, but in fact it was in that moment, and there is further opportunity to learn from it.nnI love your analogy with children. Perhaps we as adults, could learn more from children, through observation, and not always assume we are right. The same applies with Business Owners. nnI have learned that when a customer asks for help, they may already have decided what the answer is, and if mine doesn’t match, then, according to them I am wrong. I have learned to accept this, it is their prerogative, and if I cannot help the situation, don’t take it personally and move on….

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