As I contemplate this topic, I am surrounded by four animals. My almost-16 yrs. old chocolate tabby, Quilla, is at my feet. Duchess Kate, our blind cocker spaniel, and Klaus, a mini daschund with heartworm that we are fostering, precariously share the couch for the first time. Oliver, our orange tabby I rescued in Indonesia, is chasing invisible prey in the adjoining dining room. Everyone appears comfortable, but at a moment’s notice, chaos could break out.
So, too, it is with businesses and the consumers or clients you serve.
In the time it took me to write that paragraph, Klaus left and returned to the couch, and that stress caused Duchess Kate to leave the couch altogether and flop by the loveseat. In the same way, this musical chairs that we all play with businesses we patronize--and the cues we take from others--are fully observable and can be learned from.
Are you game? Let’s play!
Duchess Kate is already back on the couch, and now Quilla is perched on the seat back of my arm chair. Her gaze is disapproving, so she is probably glaring at a spelling error I need to catch.
Maybe the behavior of my pets is somewhat feckless, but it does illustrate several things about our relationships with clients:
1. No matter how happy a client seems, never get comfortable.
Yes, your best client may be purring now, but don’t put her customer service on autopilot and then spend all your energy on a difficult one that’s barking at absolutely nothing.
2. When a client leaves, don’t shut the book and assume she’s just gone.
It’s easy to keep licking your wounds and feel rejected, but shake it off and stay present in her social media and check in with her. She may realize she was chasing a shadow and quickly return to you, but only if you show that she’s welcome back!
3. Figure out why a client left and stop the bleeding.
Especially if your customers know each other, if one leaves, make sure that is not going to cause a domino effect. Check in with your other clients and make sure you are serving their needs. If you need to change something or make them feel appreciated, do it! That could cause the client that left to give you a second look.
4. Build relationships!
Ever wonder how your cats and dogs still love you after you accidentally stepped on them? They form their opinion on repetition. If you consistently follow through to your clients, then when you accidentally step on their toes, apologize and give them a treat, for Pete’s sake, but don’t beat yourself up. Just resolve to be even more careful in the future.
5. Be flexible and change with your audience
Quilla is sleeping on my chair’s arm now. Duchess Kate and Klaus appear to be reaching a partnership on the couch. Oliver is using his scratch pad by the fireplace By not hovering and instead just offering service-oriented care, I let the animals figure out for themselves what they want and provide it as best I can.
We probably can’t control our markets or our clients, but we can usually control the experiences our audiences have with us. The same is true with our pets! I can’t stop the mailman from delivering a box, nor the dogs from barking up a storm about it, but I can help them to feel heard, all the while mitigating their fears with my calm voice and steady resolve.
Do you have pets? Tell me what life lessons you’ve learned from them. Don’t have a pet? I suggest visiting Citizens for Animal Protection or another shelter to volunteer and learn about what pets might suit you!