How do you define a good customer? This is a question that many small business owners rarely, if ever, stop to ask themselves. After all, aren’t all customers good customers, you ask?
Quite simply, NO!
I mean, the fact that someone wants to give you their money in exchange for your product or service is a good thing, but that doesn’t automatically make that customer a good customer.
When’s the last time you sat down and actually went through a list of your customers from the past year, three years, or five years? You might be amazed at what you find.
Many small businesses are started around a single customer or at most a handful of customers. One of the key strategies for the owner is to branch out beyond that one big customer. The more reliant your business is on one or a handful of customers, the less sustainable and less valuable your company.
Typically as part of the growth path of a small business, you’ll take on nearly anyone who wants to be your customer. Hey, at the end of the day, if someone wants to give you their money, you’re going to try everything you can to make sure you can service that customer.
If you’re looking to grow your business, a good place to start is to ask the question “What makes a good customer for my business?”
This should include things like:
1. Payment: not only do they actually pay their bills, but they pay them on time or ahead of time. This is something we’ve all experienced. Folks we “think” are good customers, but in reality they are a drain on our business both financially and emotionally.
2. Mutual Respect: this is one of those thoughts that brings me back to my Wall Street days. This mutual respect thing was really lacking with many of our client relationships (if you can even call it a relationship). It was more about trading dollars than anything else. Do your customers treat you and your staff with respect or do they tend to be a little more hostile and demanding? I guess what I’m looking for here is something called common courtesy. It’s difficult to have that mutual respect in a relationship if someone is always playing a subservient role.
3. Helpful: does your customer help you with your business? Do they introduce you to new customers or other people who can help your business? Will they provide you with honest feedback about how you are doing so you can make the customer experience even better?
4. Fun: do you actually like your customers and do they like you? While this may not be the most important, try to imagine (if you can) a world where you actually like all of your customers. What would that mean for you and your business? Would it change your attitude and energy level? How about that of your employees? It has certainly been a key success factor to the growth of our business coaching practice.
Give some thought to this question about a good customer. Many small businesses never even engage in a discussion like this. To go from “every customer is a good customer” to “a good customer does X, Y, and Z” is so foreign to many business owners.
Are they afraid of the answer so they never ask the question? What if I find out I don’t have many good customers? Then what do I do?
Think back to when you first started or bought your business. If someone asked you then, “how would you like to go work for a bunch of people you don’t like, never pay on time, and who treat you like garbage,” you probably would say that is one of the reasons you want to run your own company. To get away from all that stuff!
If you ask yourself that question now, do you see some or all of your customers? Here’s a good test for you. Are you prepared to fire your customers who don’t meet your “good customer” criteria? Imagine taking all that time and energy you spend “dealing” with this bad customer. Responding to all their ridiculous demands. Chasing them to collect payment. Losing sleep over your own financial situation because of them.
Imagine taking all that time spent on negative things and focusing it on finding “good customers” to replace them, now that you actually know what a good customer looks like!
If you don’t have good customers, then why are you in your business in the first place? There are plenty of other “bosses” out there who will treat you better and pay you on time.
So, which customer will you fire first?