Reprinted from Customers as Partners by Chip R. Bell
What is a customer partnership? If you strip out the contracts, covenants, and deals, what do you have left? A customer partnership is a living demonstration of an attitude or orientation.
• Powerful partnerships are anchored in an attitude of generosity, a “giver” perspective that finds pleasure in extending the relationship beyond just meeting a need or requirement.
• Powerful partnerships are grounded in trust. Partners don’t spend energy looking over their shoulders, but instead take a leap of faith and rely on the relationship.
• Powerful partnerships are bolstered by a joint purpose. While this purpose is rarely “written down”, each partner is enfolded in a vision or dream of what the association could be and a commitment to take the relationship to a higher plane.
• Powerful partnerships are coalitions laced with honesty. Truth and candor are seen as tools for growth rather than devices for disdain. Partners serve each other straight talk mixed with compassion and care.
• Powerful partnerships are based on balance. Their pursuit of equality, however, is one that seeks stability over time rather absolute encounter-to-encounter equilibrium.
• Powerful partnerships are grounded in grace. The spirit of partnership has an artistic flow that gives participants a sense of familiarity and ease.
Effective customers partnerships can keep customers returning, through thick and thin, for better or worse, in good times and bad. Effective customer partnerships have qualities that can ensure their success. These are the qualities the service provider must initiate, demonstrate, or replicate. While the concept of customer partnership generally implies a long standing relationship, the feeling of partnership may be created in the short-term relationship.
Arising in part from the service provider’s focus on creating a high value service experience, this quality of service intimacy requires a commitment to extra-ordinary giving based solely on the hope (but not the requirement) that it will be rewarded with reciprocal customer devotion to the service provider. It is a combination of “love at first sight” – with service altruism in its highest form. It is an attitude of unconditional serving.
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