Customers are People Too

In many industries customers often become more than customers. They become friends. Not necessarily the kind you would invite to non-business gatherings, but people you truly care about and who care about you.

 

You may think you are in the business of selling or manufacturing stuff, but you are not. Even if your products are sold only to other businesses, the business doesn’t make the buying decision. A person does. You are in the people business. Learning to show people that they are important and cared about will help you make both the initial sale and long-term sales over the course of time.

 

No matter what you sell, every customer should receive your best service during the sales process and after. That service should be delivered in a way that shows you care about the customer. 


Good salespeople listen far more than they talk. They ask meaningful questions and then listen. The best salespeople even take notes. 

 

A Minneapolis business legend, Harvey Mackay, has a long list of information he requires his salespeople to gather about customers. This includes not only information required to do business, but a few personal details such as birthdays, whether or not they’re married, children’s names, and whether or not they have pets. That information is used to make contacts and to start conversations with customers after the initial sale.

 

It also helps the salesperson…and customer, develop a relationship beyond the sale. It’s far easier to do business with people you know than it is to do business with someone who shows up to peddle something every once on a while. 

 

People like to do business with people who are like them. People who demonstrate that they care about them beyond making the sale. People who keep them in mind when something new that might be of interest to them pops up. They come to rely on businesses and salespeople they know they can trust to have their needs and interests at heart.

 

Here is the real trick to building real, long lasting relationships – there is no trick. You need to understand that you can’t build a relationship with a business or an organization. You can only build relationships with other people. 

 

Even the biggest companies and organizations are nothing more than a group of people. Real people. People who value real relationships with other people. Even salespeople. 

 

To build a real relationship you must have the other person’s interests at heart. If you do not, they will eventually figure that out and you will become just another product peddler that they will try to avoid.

 

Customers are people too. Never forget that simple, too often forgotten fact because you do so at your own peril. 


One more thought….if you’re a Sales Manager or a business leader who expects your people to build relationships with your customers then you should know that your people are unlikely to build those relationships unless you have built one with your people first. 

The Only Mission Statement Your Business Needs

I’m perfectly fine with mission statements filled with flowery words and important sounding messages. I’ve even helped write some and I’ve used them to great effect in sales presentations. They make people feel like their business, and the role they play in it is important… and it probably is. 

 

But if your organization’s mission statement does not include the words “we exist to serve our customers” then it’s missing the true purpose of your business.

 

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, your purpose must be to serve your customers. That’s all that matters. That’s ALL that matters. 

 

You can sugarcoat coat it and pussyfoot around your purpose forever but your purpose in business is to serve a customer. Everything else you might say in your mission statement is a distraction. 

 

If you want to add how you’ll serve your customer or how you’ll determine that your customer has indeed been served that’s terrific as well. But SERVING your customer must be at the center of your mission statement. 

 

No only must it be at the center of your mission statement it MUST be at the center of every customer interaction. When you or anyone in your organization forgets, even for a moment, that the purpose of your business is to serve a customer bad things happen. It’s very likely that your customer will also forget something. It could be your phone number, your address or why they ever did business with you in the first place. 

 

If you’re in business to make money then you must know that the best way to do that is to serve your customers. You can’t buy customer loyalty with a low price. Customer loyalty can only be acquired through highly valued service. Yes, it is possible to make a profit, for a while, without serving your customers. The only way however to make a sustainable profit, over the long haul, is to serve your customers. 

 

Do not spiff up your mission statement with so much “stuff” that your actual mission is hidden from your customers or your employees. The only mission statement your business needs will sound a lot like this: “We exist to serve our customers in the manner that they desire.” 

 

There are plenty of others ways to explain everything else you’re tempted to dump into your mission statement… don’t do it. 


Keep your focus on your customer and your customer will keep their focus on you. 

What Your Customer Knows

I have heard one too many complaints lately about customers and most of the complaints have been from people in customer service roles. They have come from kind of a wide variety of businesses but the majority have been from people working in the retail industry. 

 

It’s those complaints and additional comments regarding customers that prompted this post. 

 

While the complaints and comments have come from a variety of industries they all seem to have the same underlying theme…. “we” would have much easier jobs if it weren’t for these pesky, demanding customers. 

 

Keep in mind that the vast majority of these comments have come from people specifically charged with caring for customers. 

 

I find that amazing. 

 

Now I don’t think they actually mean that they wish all their customers would leave; if they would just listen for a second to what they are saying I’m certain they would quickly realize how foolish they sound. 

 

It’s a couple of other comments however which are really concerning. A couple of people I had lunch with recently work in the call center for a huge brick & mortar retailer with thousands of stores around the United States.

 

It became clear that they really believed a good many customers they dealt with on the phone all day were just plain stupid. They assured me however that they were experts in hiding that “belief” from those same customers. I think these two “professionals” honestly believed that the customers were so dumb that they could not tell the true feelings of the reps on the phone. 

 

If you’re a customer service representative of any kind and you told me 1000 times that you had the absolute ability to hide your true feelings and emotions from the customers you interact with I would tell you 1000 times that you are wrong. 

 

And I don’t believe in telling anyone they are wrong. But in this case you are as wrong a wrong could be.

 

You can only hide the fact that you believe the people you’re dealing with are stupid for so long. Sooner or later, likely sooner, much sooner, the people will figure it out. A few words here, a little tone of voice there and your “professional” demeanor is betrayed. 

 

Your customers know whether or not you respect them. Your customer knows whether or not you value their business. They know when you think they are a pain in the butt. I mean seriously, you can tell when you’re annoying someone, you can tell when the customer service rep just wants to get you off the phone….well guess what, your customers can tell that too. 

 

But that’s not the important lesson in this post. The lesson is this: your customers are NOT stupid. Yes, they may get some things wrong, they might not understand all your “policies” and they may at times exaggerate because they don’t trust you enough to take the matter seriously if they don’t. You likely do know more about their situation than they do but hey, you’re supposed to, you’re getting paid for it.

 

If you’re in any kind of position where you interact with customers you must treat with them the full level of respect that they deserve and I didn’t say deserve by accident. They aren’t just paying for your products, they are paying to be treated fairly and with respect. If you find yourself unable to do that on a very consistent basis then you need to find another line of work. Sorry to be so direct with that but hey, if you’re not taking care of the customer you’re not taking care of the business. 

 

There is this great big hulking monster of retail out there largely unencumbered by bricks and mortar who will take care of your customer if you don’t and in doing so they will take your business with them. 

 

In today’s business environment if you think that outstanding customer service is optional you won’t need to be thinking much longer.


Think about that! 

Where Money Comes From

If you’re employed by a for-profit business then all your money comes from the same place. The money you spent on dinner last night, the money you use to pay the rent or mortgage, the money you invest in your retirement, that all came from the same place too.

It did not come from the company that employs you. It didn’t come from the boss. It didn’t come from HR and it didn’t come from the payroll department.

All of your money, every penny of it, comes from the customers who CHOOSE to do business with your company. The money you receive in the form of a paycheck is not your company’s money, it is the customer’s money, they simply allow your company to use it. The better the job a business does for their customer, the more money the business is allowed to use.

Businesses that employ people who understand that simply fact are businesses that do well. 

Sometimes businesses and their people get so caught up doing urgent things that they forget what’s truly important, the customer. Nothing, absolutely nothing, should be more important to a business than the customer. 

If you’re a for-profit business then your business cannot afford to be focused on measurements, a process or policy. The focus must be on the customer 100% of the time. Never allow yourself to be fooled into believing what you think is more important than what your customer thinks.

There is no metric, no policy, no spreadsheet and no problem that is more important than meeting and exceeding your customer’s expectations. When you forget that don’t be surprised when your customer forgets you. Measuring, surveying, accounting, and planning are all important to a business, but none of it should ever become more important than a customer.

It’s mere busy work when compared to the one vital task of every business interested in making a profit, meeting and exceeding the needs of the customer. They, the customer, that’s where the money comes from. No business, and no person who works for a business should ever allow themselves to believe that the business exists for them, it exists for the customers.

When you’re too busy to take care of customers don’t worry, that situation will rectify itself soon enough. 

Think about that the next time you’re annoyed by those pesky customers.