Clients and Service Providers: Partners or Arch-enemies?

Have you ever finished a meal at a restaurant and found the experience not worth your time and money? The waiter was not attentive enough, the food was stale, options were limited and finally you got the overall feeling that the management did not really appreciate your business as your attempts to request better service were ignored.
You just joined the dissatisfied customers club.

Could I get some service please
Could I get some service please? Picture credit:

Most know an unsatisfactory service when we are receiving it. Are we able to think for our own customers and go the extra mile to make their experience delightful?
p2w2 provides you with nuggets from the collective experience of all our users to make your more successful in building a lasting partnership with your customers.
p2w2 Blog had a great post recently on Pitfalls in Supplier Relationship Management. Interestingly, most of those points could apply in the other direction too. Suppliers too can at times get too fat and arrogant and succumb to the same pitfalls. They stop relating to the individual(s) behind the client organization, seek to squeeze too much by atrociously charging for every additional service request, adopt the “take it or leave it” approach when the client is trapped in a dire situation and finally, make every decision a matter of ego.

Another great post is on Freelancer Essentials, and it talks about how to establish as a reliable service provider. I will extend on these posts.

In my own career, I have gained a lot from working with seasoned professionals in customer relations. The need to manage clients and internal teams across the globe makes it even more challenging! This post draws from my experience on the bare essentials in establishing great relations with your clients.

View it from long-term client relationship perspective

In the services business, upwards of 70% of revenue comes from repeat business. Most of the new business comes from referrals from your existing clients. Effectively, your current clients can make or break your current revenue and its growth. What does that tell you? Every issue you have with your current clients should be viewed as if it affects growth of that account as well as a few other accounts. That’s the long term view. If you think it affects your current deal, you can move past that. That’s the short-term view. Which one do you follow?The right approach is to work together to get to a partnership, where both sides care for and actively work towards each other’s success. You give feedback to the client where if affects your business and the other way around. Not every client wants only the best price. They need relationships, timely service, and even references from you so your client can get other clients!


The Expansive Relationship of Two Individuals as An Independent One. Picture Credit:

Brighten the relationship with out-of-work activities

Partners share other interests too outside of work. Connect with your customer by finding out shared interests apart from just timely delivery of the agreed services. Photography, blogs, parties, baseball, soccer or Ping Pong… What does your client love to talk about? If you have similar interests, talk about them. If you know other people who have common interests, or can be of help to your clients, connect them. Your client will appreciate that and help you when you are in need.

Ask for feedback; Listen to your customer

Don’t pay lip service to listening to your customers. An often used, but usually poor strategy, is to use someone else (either outsourced, or a different administrative department) to survey your customers.

Your must ask for feedback frequently – what are we doing well for you? Where can we improve? Most people shy away from asking.

There are many benefits from asking for feedback.

First, it gives your client a platform to vent their feelings. You must patiently listen to her. That itself shows to the client that you give importance to her. You are one step closer to satisfying the client.

Second, it helps you narrow the gap between client’s expectations and your performance.

Third, you can figure out if there’s something you have but does not cost much for you but has a lot of value to your client. Discovering such aspects creates mutually beneficial relationship.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes

When you are at the receiving a service, consciously evaluate it. I have personally found this useful.When you are at the doctor’s office, waiting to talk to your bank’s service desk or requesting support from your internal technical/HR/facility helpdesk – were you treated the way you would have liked? What did you like? What should have been better? How can you apply that in the way you deliver service to your clients?

Bad news does not age well

The earlier you tell your client, the better the chance of working together on reducing the impact.

To deliver the message faster and to mitigate the impact, You can set up regular status meetings and using the meetings to disclose or warn about bad news. Being too early is better than being late at all.

Never defend the indefensible

When you make mistakes, accept them. Being passionate about your work and your team is noble. But nobody is perfect and at times we all make mistakes. Mature customers understand there are problems once in a while. Your ability to recover is as important as your ability to avoid most of them. Accept your faults and move on.

Customer is never wrong about the results s/he wants

Customer is sometimes wrong – but they are never wrong about the results they want (e.g. better service quality, faster deliver), but they may often be short- term focused and less knowledgeable about how they want you to achieve it. When a customer tries to tell you how to run your business, you should have the confidence in your own abilities to not let any pressure distract you from applying the right solution to deliver the right results.

Part amicably when things are simply not working out

Finally, there are times when your value systems simply do not match with those of customer’s. When there is too much interference that cramps your style of doing business or you are unfairly treated, it might require you to walk away. If a dialogue with the client does not produce a solution, move on. But you should part amicably. Parting amicably is always better than a bitter lawsuit! But parting amicably gives the client a chance to come back and talk about other opportunities she may have and retains a bit of reference value of that client for you.

Keep track of your goal

At a very high level, these are basic common sense points that we apply in most of interactions in our social circle. But the daily rigmarole can sometimes make us lose track of these when we deal with our clients. Being watchful

and not losing sight of what we have set out to achieve – a successful, well run business – should keep us right on track! I would love to hear from you on any other advice you might have for us and your fellow small business colleagues here at P2W2. Please do leave your comments!

4 Replies to “Clients and Service Providers: Partners or Arch-enemies?”

  1. “Bad news does not age well” – is a great line! Followed by “Part amicably when things are simply not working out.” It may be that business people used to do this a lot, but we never heard much talk about it. I think it is one of the best tools to keep on hand; it can be a most respectful decision, and then sometimes, relationships just need to be terminated.

    Thanks for the very thorough posting.

  2. Roxanne,

    Thanks so much for your comments. I am glad you liked the post.

    If you have a good/bad experience as a customer that you think we could all learn from, do share that!


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