What makes a good customer?

What makes a good customer? I think it differs in specific terms from industry to industry but in broad terms I think there are commonalities.

In a recent conversation, I noted that a good customer isn’t just defined by someone who pays their bill. That’s nice, but it isn’t the crux of it.

A good customer is responsive. In my industry, I ask questions. Lots of them. A good customer lets me know the answers, if they have them, or that they don’t understand, if they don’t. They may even say they have the answer somewhere but will have to get back to me. But whatever it is, they communicate that they have received the question and they give me a response. They don’t ignore my emails for 2 or 3 weeks (or sometimes 52 or more weeks) and then expect me to remember what’s going on.

To that end, a good customer has reasonable expectations. In developing those expectations, they participate in defining the problem and they listen to what the possible outcomes are. They work to develop their understanding and goals. Not everyone knows what they don’t know but if the customer participates in the conversation, often the parameters will develop.

A good customer says when they don’t understand, or when they need more information to make a decision. I often get people who nod their head at everything I say, or give me a dismissive “I know that”, so I make the erroneous assumption that they do know that. But about half the time, they didn’t understand what I was saying. If I know someone doesn’t understand, I will reframe my discussion. Isn’t that a nice way of saying that? “RE-FRAME”. For those nodding their heads and saying “Right”, it just means that I’ll say it in a different way and try to avoid jargon or “account-ese”.

A good customer participates in the success of whatever the project is – whether it is 50 years of unfiled taxes, or a Post-Assessment Review (sort of audit) letter from CRA.

They also don’t over react to minor challenges and issues.

So why do we want good customers? It makes our work more successful. It creates an atmosphere of trust and communication. It provides satisfaction to really help someone achieve the best possible outcome, which isn’t always what they thought it was at the outset. An overall majority of good customers in your client base also makes your business more saleable when that day comes – whether it’s at 75 or 59 – when you’re ready to let go.

And how you get customers is education. Educate your customers as to your boundaries (there’s that jargon) – what you will and will not tolerate. And educate yourself as to how you can define those limits and what you need for success.

Finally, it comes down to this. Their success is your success. And there is a great feeling watching someone you’ve helped move forward in their endeavors.

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