Be Friendly to Your Customers, but Don’t Treat Them Like Friends

As readers of this blog know, I am not shy about shining a spotlight on examples of poor customer service, and sharing my views on how the matter could have been improved.  Armchair quarterbacking, I believe it is called.

That said, I must now point the finger at myself.



In a conference call with a client last week, he was explaining that he was going to have to push our project back a couple of months, due to some issues concerning a sister company of his.

What I should have said is, "Hey, no problem.  Give me a holler when you are ready to roll."  But because I had built a friendship with the guy in addition to our business relationship, and we had agreed to speak freely with one another, I barely masked my disappointment, and for some reason felt the need to remind him that I would be seeking other projects in the interim, and I hoped that I would be available when he was ready to go.  I wasn’t rude or snotty when I said this; it was more of like "Hey, you snooze, you lose" that you would say to a buddy.

Even now, as I retell this story, I am astounded at my ignorance.  Anyone who has worked with a consultant before, and certainly anyone with this particular gentleman’s business pedagree, understands that projects need to scheduled as to availability.  But friendship or no friendship, buddy or no buddy, I should have had my customer service consultant hat on at that time.  I should have been understanding and accomodating, and I am afraid that in this instance, I was not.

I soon regained my common sense, and apologized, which the client quickly accepted and dismissed in true male-buddy fashion, and we have continued our business relationship and friendship.  But I was lucky.  By letting my guard down and wearing my friend hat when I should have been wearing my consultant hat, I could have easily lost or damaged a business relationship.

So please, learn from my error.  No matter how friendly you become with a client or customer, always remember to treat them with the respect that all customers deserve.  Any less can be damaging to both the business, and the personal, relationship.

   — Chuck Dennis

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