By Jeremy Sacco
It’s not always easy to love your customers. Sure, on the most basic level, you’d be out of business without them, so you ”appreciate their business” – just like it says on the bottom of your form emails and pre-printed receipts.
But behind closed doors, how often do you laugh at them? Or grumble about their last-minute changes, their penny-pinching, or their lack of understanding of all the work you do?
You don’t have to delude yourself into thinking the customer is always right – but you should try to love them in spite of their flaws. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are two key ways you can show your customers the love they deserve.
Be mindful of your message
A Seth Godin post from a few years back highlighted an e-commerce FAQ that basically accuses customers of being dishonest.
Unfortunately, we can no longer take phone orders. Customers forget to tell us something and after the order is placed and processed they claim we wrote down incorrect information. By placing an order online we have a record of exactly what you want, especially for custom-designed items, leaving no room for error.
While it’s likely that this was a real problem for this company, there’s a huge failure here: it demonstrates a lack of trust. Does that show customers that you really “appreciate” them?
An easy but partial fix is simply a messaging improvement. Why not say, “Making sure we get you exactly what you want is important to us, and using our online form makes sure we have everything squared away?” That’s a big improvement. Instead of implying that the customer is deceitful, you’re emphasizing your commitment to great service – and you haven’t had to change a single facet of how you do business.
Take a few minutes to go through your web site, especially customer-focused pages like order forms, FAQs, and customer support areas, and think about the messages from a customer’s point of view. Look for text that implies customers are uninformed or not to be trusted – and rewrite it.
Build love, build loyalty
Far better than simply changing your messaging, though, is to tackle the root of the problem. Instead of blaming your customers, start trying to understand how you can best meet their needs.
In the example above, that would mean hiring or training better phone sales staffers, sending out detailed confirmation emails before shipping or producing custom orders, or simply accounting for a higher rate of returns in your business model and impressing your customers with quick replacements for any problems.
In the long run, it’s neither the business processes nor the messaging that’s the underlying problem: it’s your attitude. Start trusting, respecting, and even loving your customers and you’ll find them returning that devotion. Vovici’s 5 Decisions that Earn Devoted Customers & Business Prosperity gives more examples, and MarketingSherpa shared 5 Retention-Centric Tactics to Boost Sales.
Finally, you should be aware that loving your customers can occasionally involve tough love, too. There are certainly some clients from hell that come up in any business – and you need to know when to fire those clients. But if you’ve got the right attitude, those customers will be few and far between.