June 2009

Jun 30 2009 Published by under Newsletters

Getting Rid of Our Customers

By Mary Gersema

Are they our customers or our clients?  Can they be both?  Can we turn them from customers into clients?  Do we want to?  YES.

We want clients not customers.  Let me explain.  In my mind there has always been a difference I knew but had never articulated.  I have always referred to our clients as “clients.”  I have always corrected anyone who referred to my “clients” as “customers.”  “What the heck is up with that” I wondered one day.  So with nothing else to do but ponder and be on the internet (that’s a joke), I decided to look up the definitions of the two words to help me articulate it.

Here’s what I found; a customer is a person who buys goods (usually a commodity) from another.   A client is someone who comes under the protection of another.  Ahhh, that’s it!  Our clients come under our protection.  We promise to make their lives easier and we accomplish this by keeping their best interest at the front of our minds.  Our new logo says we are the “trusted guardian;” doesn’t it all just fall into place?

Last month I told you about Lois at JoAnn’s Fabric Store.  It was an example of what not to do.  This month I want to tell you about Valerie.  Valerie works for a clothing store called Catherine’s.  A clothing store is easily a business that could have “customers” but in this case has clients.  I have been a loyal client of Catherine’s for years, here’s why.  I went to Catherine’s recently to buy some summer clothes and was told by Valerie that some of them would be on sale on Sunday and she could hold them until then, saving me a lot of money.  I told her that I was leaving town and would be in Savannah on Sunday so I would just have to pay full price.  She asked if I needed the clothes for the trip and when I told her no she offered to take an imprint of my credit card and run the sale through on Sunday and I could pick up the clothes when I got back to Boise.  I trust her, as I have been her “client” for a long time and a “client” of Catherine’s for even longer.  So I gave her the imprint, went on a trip, came home and picked up my clothes.

What did I gain?  A savings of dollars for sure and maybe even more than that, I gained the deeper understanding that they are looking out for me.  What did they gain?  Even more “client” loyalty AND much word of mouth advertising.  I have told all my friends this story and now the ripple gets bigger with this telling.

Now the application – are we being a Valerie to our clients?  Are we doing all we can to make their lives easier?  Remember in the story, my first response about Sunday’s sale was that I could not take advantage of it because I’d be out of town.  Notice what happened next.  Valerie did not stop there; she probed to find out if I needed those clothes for my trip and made a suggestion to help me that I would not have considered.  Do we rob our clients of the best experience they can have with us because we serve at a surface level instead of probing deeper?  I encourage you to make a difference in the life of EVERY client you deal with and remember to probe to get the best result.  And just one more thing… some of your most valuable clients are internal.

O.K., it’s summertime.  Get out there and have the best one ever and what a perfect time of year to wear those starfish.  Keep making a difference and have some fun!

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