For those of you who didn’t grow up with my father, the golden rule simply states, “do onto others as you would have done onto you”. As I look around at companies today, all I see is the cracked foundation of the pedestal upon which the standard of client treatment once perched proudly. Sure, there are places you see patches where someone attempted to fix it and hold it together, but in the end the core continues to crumble as companies forget their clients are actual people, not cogs or numbers in a spreadsheet.
The Proud Pedestal
There was a time when all client/company interaction occurred in person, or on rare occasions over the phone. These relationships went beyond the doors of the office where they discussed products or services and extended to the Friday night high school football game, Sunday morning church service, or even the Thursday night PTA meeting. This worked because you did business in town with people you trusted and everyone knew each other, for better or worse. As these smaller businesses began to grow, they kept up with their clients and still knew when Sally’s birthday was or what time to call Frank on a Tuesday evening (always before the ballgame, but after the news) because they had a rock solid foundation in place from the many in-person interactions. Not to mention, they kept copious records in their office file folders. Enter the World Wide Web…
Fast forward a few years and phrases like “we have to be online” or “we have to grow our social network to succeed” began popping up in the vernacular of many companies. This is when we start to see the first crack in the foundation. These companies thought “being online or on social” guaranteed them the same level of interaction once realized during the time business was done locally. When just being there wasn’t working, they decided it was the message they shared with their networks (vs. the lack of interaction), so they decided to craft a “more human” marketing message. They used slang or casual vernacular to talk with their clients, because they thought this made them sound “more like friends”, but instead had the opposite effect of making them look less professional to their client base. Lo and behold, this simply widened the crack because companies were still not honing in on the reason behind the deterioration: they forgot the core.
Repairing the Core
The core is what I referenced earlier…the relationships founded upon mutual trust, understanding, and knowledge of each other. Simply talking to someone like a friend does not establish any of these “sticky” emotions, but talking with them, and listening however, does. Take the time to respond to comments coming in on your website, through social media, or your inbox: you wouldn’t make them wait if they were standing in your doorway, so don’t push them off your proverbial doorstep simply because it is online. Pay attention to your clients when they talk: not just when they talk about their existing product or service, but when they talk about themselves, because this is where the connections really begin. If they mention “exhaustion from the new baby” you can discuss adding a college savings plan to their existing checking account, which was what they initially called to discuss. Also, just because that filing cabinet is no longer behind you, it doesn’t mean you cannot keep track of the nuances (like the birthdate of aforementioned new baby) that make your client unique. Finally, and I cannot express this enough, acknowledge your client! If they reach a professional milestone (like 10 years in business or receive a prestigious industry award), publicly recognize and share their success. Not only does this let your client know you are paying attention to more than just their account number, it also shows potential clients you are a business who cares and will give them the same level of attention when they become clients.
If you remember nothing else, take the time to sit back and think about how you wish to be treated by a company. If what you are doing contradicts that, apply the golden rule and revel in its simple success.