When I think about customer retention I think about the way we treat our customers. Social media and instantaneous communication mean that we all want to be treated as individuals.  We hit delete as soon as we see a Dear Sir/Madam email salutation.  And yet, we all know and abide by the Golden Rule – “Treat others as you want to be treated” or something like that.

In the past, I have written about the Golden Rule 2.0 – “Treat others the way they want to be treated,” which I totally believe in.  This raises the obvious question; how do we rationalize the original and 2.0 Golden Rules?

When you try and implement the 2.0 version you must know things about the person you are thinking about.  So, at first you must think about you being on your best behavior and then apply the original version.  For example, if you want people to respond to your emails then you have to respond to theirs. If you want to be trusted, you have to trust (really, not just trying to fake it!). Never assume that you are smarter than the people you are dealing with – that assumption can, from a relationship perspective, be fatal.

As you develop your relationship, you learn things about the other person as an individual.  In some cases, you will find real differences between yourselves. You should internalize these differences and modify your behavior as the relationship deepens.  For example, you are a carnivore and your new contact (associate, client, friend?) is a vegan.  Guess what type of restaurant you never suggest or discuss!

Another example.  You may be an ardent Red Sox fan (sorry but this is where I live) and also treat every interaction as an unemotional business decision.  Your new contact has a passion for art and music and enjoys talking about both.  She refers you and you company to someone that turns into a nice piece of business.  Your initial inclination is to send a brief thank-you email and move on.  As you put yourself in her shoes, you decide that a small thank-you gift would really make her day.  Tickets to a ball game or to a museum with a new exhibit?  The choice is a no-brainer.

Why is this Golden Rule thing so important?  Because today we all struggle to differentiate our business from our competitors.  We can’t use quality – if you can’t meet quality and performance expectations you are not a player.  We don’t want to compete on price – the race to the bottom will put everyone out of business.  The only available differentiator is service and a key factor in how your business is perceived is the way you interact with your prospects and clients.  This is so critical to your retention strategy that I will say it again – treat your customers the way they want to be treated!

In a future post I will discuss trust and peace-of-mind as differentiators.