Lately, I’ve been managing many relationships with clients, colleagues and prospects. Each day, I am talking and/or writing back and forth with a lot of people. Although I love encounters with people – it’s where I get my energy – the sheer volume of interactions is challenging.

As I’ve been doing this, I’ve been thinking a lot about customer relationships as ongoing conversations. (This is the subject of Chapter 3 in We) I keep reminding myself what my best relationships with friends are like; if a friend and I don’t talk for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months, we are able to pick up right where we left off. There is no need to start over. The same goes with good customer relationships – they are framed by ongoing, unbroken conversations.

Here is a mindset I find helpful: As opposed to thinking, “My customer and I talked about X last week and we are going to talk about X again this week,” I try to think, “My customer and I are talking about X.” It’s as if we are always in the middle of a conversation, even when we aren’t actually talking. If I’m thinking this way, it’s easier to jump right back into the conversation when my customer and I meet again.

This isn’t always easy. But it is important. A strong relationship is an ongoing conversation.

How do you create ongoing conversations with your customers?


  • Judith Ellis
    Mar 19, 2008 - 10:01 am

    Relationship with customers should be extensions of our relationships with friends and family for whom we wish the very best. Respect, open communication, authenticity, care, thoroughness, trust, goodness, humility, and dedication are necessary in all relationships. We cannot switch on these things when we get into the office if we have not lived them elsewhere.

    Our relationship at the office must be extensions of our daily lives. Our brand should be us, extending beyond our homes, places of worship, and communities. I sincerely try to live my life as I would at home, work, church, and play. I have sometimes missed the mark and when I have done so I have recognized the shortcoming immediately and have learned from it, changing directions quickly. Honesty is another hallmark of relationships. Customers so appreciate this.

    My question to myself is always one of authenticity with my family, friends, neighbhors and customers. The ongoing conversation is assured when our customers trust our motives, actions and dedication to service. I consider myself as one who serves.

  • Jayakumar Hariharan
    Mar 20, 2008 - 06:20 am

    Here is my list of three

    1. Something worth talking about! (Product, service,

    2. Room for imagination, improvement

    3. A listening environment – the willingness to understand and fulfill “even the unexpressed wishes and needs*” of customers.

    Jay, from Bangalore

    *The Ritz-Carlton – The Credo

  • Steve Yastrow
    Mar 22, 2008 - 01:57 am

    And isn’t it a nice new invention that we can have ongoing conversations with people we have never met in person? Thank you Judith and Jay, for taking our conversation on and continuing it here.

    Judith, you’re right that if we look at how we “do” regular life, we’ll see the insights of how to relate in businness.

    Jay, the interesting thing to me about the Ritz “unexpressed wishes and needs” is that your cusomer often learns what he/she wants our needs while conversing with you. People learn about themselves in conversation, and they learn very little from monologue.

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