You know how it feels to hang out with your best friend? Pretty nice.
My friend Sara knows me warts and all. I let Sara in whether I feel repulsively needy or shamelessly fabulous. In Sara's presence, my self-regard (or lack thereof) melts like butter in sunshine.
And what does Sara get? My undying loyalty, for one thing. Overflowing gratitude, for another. And all the permission she can stand to be her sweet self irrespective of the state of her own self-esteem. Paradoxically, she gets the best of me precisely because I don't hide the worst.
WHAT DOES IT HAVE IN COMMON WITH GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE? HOW IS A CUSTOMER LIKE A BEST FRIEND?
Like a best friend, your just-right customer wants what you do the way you do it, not what you think you need to do it to compete. They want you to be authentic and clear so that what you advertise is what they get.
Like a best friend, your just-right customer wants to know you care and that you can be counted on. That doesn't mean they expect you to meet their every need. It does mean that they want to feel secure in the knowledge that what you offer is what you truly want to share.
And like a best friend, your just-right customer deserves access whether or not you happen to be operating at the peak of self-esteem.
Just as a friend may rightfully resent being pushed away when you feel “less than, " your just-right customers are ill-served when you withdraw just because your self-esteem has bottomed out.
It's natural to retreat when you feel low or inadequate, but it's unfair to do it to a customer. How can you serve your customer and make good on your offers if you're hiding out with your old bad self, replaying your most embarrassing moments and screening action features based on your greatest fears?
You may feel that hiding out is more ethical than promoting your work when you are full of self doubt - but can you be sure? Is holding back for fear of being less than perfect really an act of integrity and good customer service?
When you place your self-esteem between you and a customer, you're like a teenager that leaves her date out in the cold while she agonizes over a blemish. A customer deserves a service and business relationship grounded in reality, not in the equivalent of a Harlequin romance.
If you're serious about growing your business, find ways to show up and serve as you really are. For tips on how to do this (because, after all, there is a difference between what is appropriate in business and friendship), read 5 Things Customers Want and How to Deliver Them.
5 THINGS CUSTOMERS WANT
- To know what you can do to make their life better.
- To be able to find out what it takes to be served by you and do business with you without jumping through lots of hoops.
- To know you are a good fit.
- To take a test drive without fearing the hard sell.
- To compensate you for what they get so they needn't feel obliged and they feel good about asking for more.
- Be up front, even bold, in stating how your goods or services make things better for them so that they can make a decision about whether to ask for more information. This respects their time and attention by answering the question, “What can you do for me?"
- Understand what it takes for you to deliver consistent value. How much time? How much money? How much energy? What kind of commitment? What support? What resources? What else?
When you know what you need in order to build good customer service - come through for your customers, set your prices, policies, and procedures accordingly and make it easy for your customers to understand them.
- Show up in your business. Use language, imagery, colors that are consistent with the way you are in your work. Are you a funny, organized, motherly midwife? Or a charming, blunt career coach? It's almost certain that lots of people do what you do and do it as well or better. However, it is highly unlikely that anyone else does it quite like you do. Make it easy for people to tell how well you're likely to fit.
- Offer a test drive. If you sell products, give samples. If you sell services, give samples. What does that look like? An eight-page special report, a newsletter, reprints of articles, audio of speeches or seminars. Keep your eyes and ears and mind open, and your samples may add up to a product and a new income stream.
- Make it easy for people to pay you for your work. When your just-right customer pays for something they want from you, they are making a conscious commitment to getting their money's worth. This makes it a lot more likely that they will do what it takes to benefit from what you offer.
Molly Gordon, MCC, is a leading figure in business coaching, writer, workshop leader, a frequent presenter at live and virtual events worldwide, and an acknowledged specialist on small business marketing . Read Molly's articles on to find out what makes good customer service , and how to serve your customers without burnout , and, while on the site, don't forget to join 12,000 readers of her Authentic Promotion® ezine and receive a free 31-page guide on effective self promotion.