3 Ways to Tell if Your Customer Relationship is All About You

by Colin Shaw on July 14, 2015

Sometimes we have a relationship we think is good, but it really isn’t. It’s true in friendships, marriages, and yes, even business relationships. There are some signs that your Customer relationship is all about you, or one-sided, and they are easier to spot than you think.

Many of the things that make personal relationships fail make your relationship with Customers one-sided. I wrote a blog a while back about some friends who only called me when they wanted something. Over time, I learned they aren’t really friends. If one side has to make all the effort, it’s not a productive, equal, or fruitful relationship. Many organizations are guilty of this behavior whether they realize it or not. The first step for change, however, requires awareness.

To that end, here are three ways you can identify how you are making your relationship with Customers one-sided:

#1:  You don’t take no for an answer.

If your technique is to keep trying to overcome objections until you get to “Yes,” you are not asking for the business; you are demanding it. This method is not the way to set up a relationship that is open and honest with your current and future customers. Instead, you encourage them to find a new relationship, a competitor who listens to what they have to say.

#2:  Your Customer retention plan includes penalties or fines if they want to end the relationship.

Locking someone in an agreement by threats of penalties is not a great way to start a relationship. Is this a relationship or an indentured servitude? It virtually guarantees they will want to get out of this arrangement once they become a “client.” But since you have the handy fine in place, they will have no choice but to bear it out until the contract ends. Fines and penalties are in place to protect you from losses. If you find that the Customer is always winning, and you are not, this is not good for business. From an operational standpoint you can’t always be the one that loses. Of course, Customers can’t always feel like they lose either. That’s terrible from a retention standpoint. A relationship is a two-way street. It should build on a win/win foundation.

#3:  Your policy is to renew this cycle, over and over again.

Maybe these two sound familiar, Maybe you think I am naïve or that my label of one-sided is code for “how it’s done.” However, Customer Centricity puts the Customer first, not the organization. Those that don’t put the Customer first are more likely to have these types of policies, creating relationships that exhibit classic signs of one-sidedness. If you support either of these concepts, maybe it’s time for you to take another look at the relationship you set up with your Customers.

Is Your Relationship with Your Customers All about You?

So how do you know you are in a One-Sided relationship, and on the wrong side of it? That’s easy: the relationship leaves you feeling emotionally spent instead of recharged. If you feel drained by it, threatened into it or afraid to find out what would happen if you were to change it, then you have a classic one-sided relationship.

Relationships are everywhere in your life, good and bad. Mostly we keep the good relationships close and find a way to kick the bad ones to the curb. It is easy to imagine this relationship playing out in a romantic sense. It can sometimes be harder to see in “other” relationships–especially if you are the one making it that way.

What are some other signs of a one-sided relationship? I would love to hear what you think some other signs show an organization is only thinking of themselves and not the Customer.


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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX


Colin Shaw3 Ways to Tell if Your Customer Relationship is All About You