In the current times, any customer is a good customer. At least that is how it feels in the moment. When I began Oyster, that is how it felt. I needed customers, anyone would do. Over the past few years I’ve learned this is no longer true. There is a big difference between my best customers and my average ones.
The difference is partnership
The difference I’ve noted is partnership. My best customers are truly partners. They treat me as an equal, not as a subordinate or hired hand. They do what they say and are transparent in the communication. We can talk openly about our business together and not feel like we are playing poker. Poker is a win-lose game, each person trying to get one over on the other.
What is it about the relationship that turns it into a partnership? These relationships are special because each partner is committed to mutual satisfaction of the other. We are committed to making each other successful. We know a win-lose situation is suboptimal.
I learned an important concept from my Intel career. Customer – supplier relationships were usually adversarial. Both sides negotiating to get the biggest slice of the pie. A few relationships were very different. They generated tremendous new value because they were focusing on increasing the overall size of the pie, not only the size of their slice. With a bigger pie, both parties win.
Invest to create good customers
The current times are hard and I understand the temptation to work with any customer. While you are doing that, I encourage you to invest in building strong partnerships with them. This starts by being generous. How can you increase the size of the pie?
When this crisis ends, as they all do, you will have a strong customer partner who will remember you went the extra mile when they needed it. That is the sort of customer we all need and it is an opportunity available to all of us.