Why would anybody say that a business is better off without customers? The short answer is: when it has clients. But there’s more to this that, it’s about the nature of the business relationship, so don’t be put off by the title here!
To better understand what I’m talking about, let’s take a look at the dictionary definition of those two words:
Here’s what customer is defined as (from http://www.answers.com/customer):
1. One that buys goods or services.
2. Informal. An individual with whom one must deal: a tough customer.
And here’s what client is defined as (from http://www.answers.com/client):
1. The party for which professional services are rendered, as by an attorney.
2. A customer or patron: clients of the hotel.
3. One that depends on the protection of another.
Now, and this is something that I properly teach and explain the psychology behind in our e-Commerce Marketing Workshops, consider for one moment who it’s easiest to sell to: somebody who has bought from you before, or somebody who hasn’t? If you properly satisfied your purchaser the first time, then the answer is of course somebody who has bought from you before.
So now consider the third bullet under the definition of client “One that depends on the protection of another.” If you can aspire to form this relationship with those who purchase your goods or services, by looking after them properly, over-delivering, and protecting them from problems, then it is clear that (all other things being equal) they are more likely to make a repeat purchase from you than go to your competitor. Why on Earth would they want to?
So look after your clients, treat them as you would your friends (and in time they just might become your friends), and you will very probably have a “customer for life”.
Which brings me neatly on to the origins of the word customer, which (without delving still further into the Latin origins) is of course derived from custom. Here’s what the dictionary says about custom (http://www.answers.com/topic/customs):
1. A habitual practice of a person: my custom of reading a little before sleep. See synonyms at habit.
2. Habitual patronage, as of a store.
3. Habitual customers; patrons.
So looking deeper still into the meaning of the words themselves, perhaps I’m not being quite fair in saying that you don’t want customers?
The bottom line is that, however you term them, regardless of what you call them, what you really want most in your business is for people to come back to you and buy again: if you run a hair salon, you want them to return to you for their next session with a stylist; if you are a solicitor, you want them to return to you the next time they need legal advice; if you are a radio DJ, you want them to tune into your show the next time they turn their radio on; and if you run a garage, you want them to return to you the next time their car needs a service.
So it’s not really about words at all, it’s about relationships. First you need to build a relationship, then you need to maintain in. I’ll discuss how to do that in more detail in another article.
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