Why Warm and Fuzzy Customer Relations Are Better

Loving your customers does more than inspire you to better work – it makes you more profitable and competitive.

Why Warm and Fuzzy Customer Relations Are Better

Loving your customers does more than inspire you to better work – it makes you more profitable and competitive.

Judging by some of the links I’ve been sent lately, there are a lot of us who struggle to find decent clients, let alone fabulous ones. But when a great client comes along, it’s occasion to celebrate – and not just because they save you from griping about how tough your work is. There’s a strong business case for focusing on your best customers and showing them some appreciation.

The legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser composed a marvellous list called “Ten Things I Have Learned,” wherein Lesson Number One is this: You can only work for people that you like.

He says “work for,” because his life’s work involved hiring himself out to clients for design projects; but the same principle applies to people developing products, serving the public, running retail shops, or just about any business model I can think of.

What does Glaser mean by only working for people you like? Here’s his explanation:

I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection.

I couldn’t agree more; and moreover, I would argue that having warm & friendly relationships with your customers is not only the path to doing better work, but it also helps you stay profitable and competitive.

Great clients aren’t just more fun. They make more business sense.

Your best customers are often your most profitable, because in my experience, good clients rarely nickel-and-dime you; they may (and realistically, should) have budget limits, but they’ll share them with you and invite you to help them spend that budget in the most efficient way possible. They come back to you again and again, saving you money on landing new customers; and they send their friends your way (and those friends tend to be good clients, too).

They make you more competitive, because they take the time to find out what you do best, and send good business your way. They trust you enough that you can stretch your wings and do better work, which in turn attracts attention from prospective customers, media, your peers, and prospective employees.

And, as anyone who’s had a great client knows, you’ll have more fun at work. In fact, work will have a lot more in common with play than you might have thought possible.

So, how do you attract great customers?

For some of us, the first step towards a full roster of dream clients may be ditching a few bad ones. If all your time is taken up dealing with a handful of problem clients, you won’t have any time or energy left over to cultivate good relationships.

Beyond that, there’s not a lot of science to it: this stuff is all about the same relationship skills you use in every area of your life. Learn to listen well, ask good questions, communicate clearly, and be yourself. One brilliant online marketer, Colleen Wainwright, sums up the three rules of effective online communication:

  1. Be Useful.
  2. Be Specific.
  3. Be Nice.

Those are pretty good rules for building good customer relationships, too. This is all about building trust, and that’s something you have to earn.

Keep your friends close, and your best customers closer

When I work with a dream client, I make sure they know how much I appreciate them. At our firm, we like to send bouquets of flowers to our clients when they launch a new website – and invariably this small gesture is greeted with enthusiastic gratitude. (An aside: our male clients seem to love it even more than the women, perhaps because they rarely get a nice bunch of flowers to brighten up their offices.)

If flowers aren’t in your budget, you’d be amazed at what a difference a thank-you card makes, especially to a customer who has sent you a referral or perhaps simply made your work a lot more pleasant. A little gratitude goes a long way in a world where people increasingly feel anonymous — when someone I do business with takes the time to thank me for supporting their company, it affirms my sense that I’ve made the right choice, and it gives me an added incentive to come back.

Affection, trust, appreciation: These are words we don’t always associate with business and profit. But as customers, we intuitively feel all these things towards our favourite businesses, whether they are neighbourhood grocers or international retailers. As business owners, it behooves us to take a moment to focus on the customers who make us feel that way, and consider what we can do to find more of them.