Thursday, January 17, 2008

Friend or Customer?

In the course of a day answering calls, I meet a variety of people. I love hearing about the different types of businesses they have, how they got started, and their plans for expansion. As branding specialists, it’s our job to learn all about our customers’ businesses in order to help them effectively market them.

However, sometimes conversations become “off topic” and veer far, far into the personal realm. In my years of dealing with both clients and vendors, I have discussed home remodeling plans, impending romantic breakups, the benefits of preparing dog food from scratch, and high school football, among other things. While such banter can be fun, too much personal conversation can blur the boundary between customer and friend.

While it is not usually the case, some customers intentionally cultivate a
“pseudo-friendship” in order to get extra discounts, goods, or services. More often, some people simply love to talk, while others are truly lonely.

At the risk of sounding callous, I would advise against getting too friendly with customers. Spending hours on the phone hearing about cocker spaniel sweaters is not an efficient use of your time or resources. As well, all customers deserve equally good service, not just the ones with whom you share musical tastes. While it’s fine to inquire about a long term client’s vacation, keep your phone interactions courteous and professional, while trying to keep the conversation focused on business.


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