People like to say that they’re in the “relationship business,” and to be honest, many of us are. But maybe our connections with our clients and potential clients are better described as belonging to a “relationship economy”—a system that needs to work two ways, with equal give and take.
Technically, a relationship can exist even if it’s all take and no give, but few relationships grow strong and healthy on such an impoverished foundation. Would you stay in a romantic relationship with a demanding partner that never reciprocated? How about those mooching “friends” we always complain about, the ones that call up when they need help to accomplish a task, but seemingly melt into thin air when you need a hand? These one-sided exchanges aren’t really relationships: they’re exploitation. And if we continue to interact with these people, we encourage them to keep up their exploitive behavior. In time, the “exploitative” descriptor can actually degrade into “abusive.”
A relationship needs value. It needs to work in both directions. You need to give before you ask for the get. You want every exchange to result in “win-win,” because that’s how you form positive bonds and transfer goodwill between yourself and your clients. Since people are naturally empathetic creatures, these bonds can spark greatness.
It’s also important to understand that the concept of “customers” has changed. Today, everybody you deal with is a customer—it doesn’t matter if they buy from you or not. Your peers—your bosses, your co-workers, everybody in your office—are customers. When pitch your mission statement and brand to the media, the media becomes a customer, too.
Just as it’s vital to remember who your customers are, it’s also vital to keep in mind that every single one of your employees is an ambassador for your company and brand. It doesn’t matter if said employees are in the boardroom or in the call center: they’re all responsible for helping your company create value by forging two-way relationships with clients. If you don’t take the time to build up good will with your client base, a single negative interaction can undermine the foundation of everything you’ve previously worked to accomplish.