Kind of a strange term isn’t it? Relationship equity, hmm…
Strong customer relationships can save the day. When problems arise, strong relationships help us get important information, help us to overcome obstacles and mistakes. Strong relationships often help us “win the close ones.” In this day of product and price parity, relationship can be the sole differentiator. The relationships you have with your most valuable customers are the one thing your competitor cannot duplicate.
Stephen Covey popularized the comparison between relationships and bank accounts. In our relationships – as in banking – we make deposits and withdrawals, there are credits and debits. Credits happen when we do good deeds, deliver on promises, prove our dependability, solve a problem, and add value in general. Debits occur when we make a mistake and need to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness comes much more easily if there is a positive balance in the account.
Most of us spend lots of time and energy managing the personal aspects of our customer relationships. This is a great way to connect to your customer and create credits in the relationship account. Think about your most valuable customer contacts; I will bet you know where your customer lives, where he or she went to school, their marital status, if they have kids, their interests, hobbies, sports, etc. You probably know something about what is important to them personally.
But there are other ways to generate credits – other ways of developing the relationship between your customer and you. Now let me ask you tougher questions:
- Do you know what your customer contact wants their next job to be?
- Do you know where they want to go with their career, and what it will take for them to get there?
- Do you know their professional goals, how they are measured, and the progress they are making?
- What, if anything, about their job keeps them up at night?
- Do you know what you can do to help them?
Taking the time to understand and manage the professional side of your customer relationships, as well as those personal connections, can result in success for them and for you. Helping your key contacts achieve professional success often increases the likelihood that you too will be successful and adds credits to your account.
In any complex and long-term relationship, debits are going to happen, withdrawals will be made. Make sure you’re consciously making deposits in that account to both cover your withdrawals and build equity over time. Strong relationship accounts are best created when we pay attention to understanding both the personal and the professional side of our customers.