Every business has one thing in common: they all depend on their customers for survival. That’s why customer relations matter just as much as marketing, budgeting, even the product itself. There’s just no way to succeed without keeping your customers happy. Fortunately, most of the more common pitfalls of customer relations are avoidable.
In my experience, there are a few customer relations dangers that every business can and should avoid. If you can navigate around these very normal (but very dangerous) issues, your business will grow more quickly. That’s because the more conscientious you are about your customers, the better word of mouth will serve you.
Customer relations is one place where going beyond the minimum pays off exponentially. To ensure a better-than-average reputation for service, do whatever it takes to avoid these costly mistakes:
- Getting Emotional
We all have emotions, and they can be strong when it comes to our businesses. But as healthy as it is to acknowledge our feelings and be passionate, emotions can be bad for the bottom line. When our emotions adversely affect customer relations, that’s a problem. That usually happens in the face of criticism or dissatisfaction.
How we respond to honest feedback— even from customers that are hard to please— makes all the difference. Too often, entrepreneurs can’t take criticism from their customers. We get defensive when flaws in our product or delivery are pointed out. Our business is our baby, and we get protective when its reputation is being tarnished.
This is a mistake. The first thing to realize about your business is that your business isn’t you. Your business is bigger than you. It’s its own entity, and it involves a lot of people besides you— including your customers. An honest complaint— even if it’s the result of a misunderstanding on the customer’s end— is not a personal insult. It’s a problem that needs to be resolved.
Step back. Be objective, be clinical, and accept the reality of your customer’s dissatisfaction. Then address it. The customer isn’t always, right, but the customer does need to be respected and ultimately pleased. It takes a professional in control of their emotions to do that.
- Denying The Customer’s Problem
If a customer isn’t happy, it’s never just their problem. Even if the customer’s own error is the root of the problem, it’s still a problem— your problem. Sometimes (especially with pushy or pathologically dissatisfied customers), it can be tempting to dismiss the problem as manufactured by the customer. We convince ourselves that the problem isn’t real, as if flaws in our products or ourselves couldn’t possibly exist..
That’s not a mature approach. For the most part, your customers aren’t crazy. If something isn’t working for them, it’s not your job to figure out how it’s their fault. It’s your job to make it work. That may mean better communication on your part, or it may mean an alteration to the product, but it never means telling the customer that no problem exists.
Insisting that everything is fine doesn’t just fail to resolve the issue. It creates a new one. The customer feels disrespected, and can see you as arrogant or uncaring. That’s a recipe for a bad reputation, and a liability for your brand.
We want our customers to have faith in us. We want to sell them on our product. We want them to want our services. But we have to resist the temptation to say more than we can back up. Even promising what your product can do for the customer may be too much, unless you make it clear that results may vary. The first rule of ethical business is this: you’re selling a product, not a miracle or a dream.
In fact, what your product can do should always be changing. The product should evolve based on the things it can’t deliver at first. It should improve based on the shortcomings that customer use reveals. I always preach starting with the MVP, or minimum viable product, and improving it from there. Your customers are a key part of that process. If you plan to improve the product, claiming that it’s perfect is a lie.
When in doubt, under-promise and over-deliver.
- Failing To Communicate
Transparency, openness, and constant support are the pillars of good customer relations. That means interaction, and lots of it. Too often, entrepreneurs err on the side of less outreach, fearful that customers will be annoyed. What they fail to realize is that it’s not the frequency of communication that makes it annoying. It’s only annoying if the communication lacks quality.
If what you give your customers is valuable and helpful, you’re not bothering them. You’re being a good and conscientious business person. Too often, people who design and sell products assume that customers understand those products thoroughly. Sometimes, they don’t! They may need help getting the most out of it, and they may not know well enough to ask. That’s your job: to check in, to offer support, and to follow through.
When someone pays for a product or service, they want to be excited about it. They want to hear and learn more about it. They want to know how to get the most out of it. It affirms that they spent their money wisely, and that they gave it to someone who cares about their results.
This is especially true for SaaS products. Our webinar software, WebinarNinja, is constantly being tweaked, updated, and improved. Because these changes in functionality affect the customers’ results, we stay in constant touch. We regularly offer advice about how best to use the product and convert webinars into sales. At some points, that means we send emails every 2 or 3 days, on top of answering customer queries as they come.
There’s no secret formula for good customer relations. As independent business people, all we can do is learn from the experience of ourselves and others. By steering clear of these four (way too common) mistakes, you can give your business the best shot at a great reputation.
The value of your reputation is hard to quantify. The effect on your bottom line, however, is undeniable.