How is your clientele roster? Does it have a lengthy number of clients? What%ages are steady customers, new customers, or old customers? Do you know if you are losing customers and if you are, are you acquiring new ones to replace the customers that have left?

Do your old customers seem to be a little stand-offish? Do you have a lot of cancellations? Are your customers going longer between fills?

If you answered yes to any of the last series of questions, you are probably very good friends with your customers. In fact, you may even have many good friends and very few customers. This is a common situation that occurs in the people business… when you forget that your view is not necessarily that of your customers.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation. Mary is a nail artist and Sue is the customer. Sue has been having Mary handle her nails for over a year, but then all of a sudden Sue cancels her appointments and Mary can’t seem to get in touch with her. Finally, Mary succeeds and Sue tells her that she has decided to take her nails off…for a variety or reasons.

“But,” she remarks, “when I decide to put them on again, I will certainly come to you,”

Several weeks pass and Mary sees Sue and a mutual friend Karen at the bank, and Mary notices that Sue is still wearing nails; a full set, and obviously recently maintained. Sue and Karen seem a little cold toward Mary and she takes offense at the attitude.

Sound familiar? Well, let’s go back and take a look at the service-customer relationship that existed between the free women. (I describe it as a service-customer relationship because you are involved with servicing your customer.)

Sue was referred to Mary by Karen, a steady customer for over six moths, who has been very good friends with Karen for years.

After about three months, Sue has started to talk to Mary about Karen; things she had done or said. Mary sits back and listens but does not give an opinion.

Now, within six months, Sue starts calling Mary at home asking her to replace broken nails, generally because of an important engagement that night. Mary of course agrees.

Now at this point in the service-customer relationship, Mary has become familiar and friendly with Sue and begins to exchange ideas and, most dangerously, opinions. The conversations between Mary and Sue now seem to focus directly on and around Karen, and Mary begins to offer opinions. What Mary doesn’t realize is that Sue is also telling Karen Mary’s opinions. Also at this point, Mary Seems to slack off on her otherwise excellent application as Sue is a friend and she will understand.

Now, by the one year mark, Sue tells something about Karen that probably is a lie to see if Mary will repeat it to Karen. And as old faithful, Mary does, because of course, they are all friends.

Well surprise, Mary’s wrong. Sue is friends with Karen, Karen is friends with Sue and Mary is left out in the cold. Finally Sue cancels and goes to somebody else and not surprising, two weeks later Karen also cancels and goes to the same nail artist that Sue now frequents. Has this situation happened to you?

The cardinal rule in a service, sales oriented business is to never take your tie off when with a customer. By that I mean never become friends with somebody that pays for your service or product.

Remember that it is very easy to say no to a friend but not to a sales-person or service person. Both parties involved will take advantage of their friendship in a detrimental way.

For example: “Oh, I’m very busy right now and she really won’t care…she’s a friend and will understand.” Or how about, “I’ll give it to her at my price.” Both examples are very important… especially the second one. You are performing a service for someone. You are a professional making money for what you do. When you give someone your price on product, what goes through their mind? Do they think “Boy, she made a big profit on me before,” or does she feel that she deserves everything for your cost or less? Then does she either demand it or go somewhere else and pay twice the amount just so she doesn’t feel that she’s supporting her friend?

A person respects a successful professional. Once you lose that professionalism you will also lose that customer.

So remember the importance of maintaining that service-customer relationship. By building on that professionalism you can be assured of maintaining your clientele roster and your success.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.