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?