Sunday, June 27, 2010

Treat Your Spouse Like a Customer

From Family Life Today

I know that most men want to be just as successful at home as they are at work. And initially, you wouldn’t think of calling your wife or children customers. They are so much more than that, right? I mean, you need your work world so you can earn a decent living, but you don’t love your customers and colleagues. You don’t live with them, vacation with them, or sleep with them. Your wife and children are flesh and blood, while your customers are, well, customers. In your hierarchy of importance, your wife and children are at the very top, right?

Sort of.

While it’s true that you love your wife and children but only work with your customers, your behavior often sends signals to your loved ones that your customers matter more than they do. That is why the cry of a woman’s heart is often, “Please, you don’t have to be perfect, but give me the same respect you give your people at work.” And that’s really sad when you stop to think about it, because in a way, she is settling for something less than what she deserves; those you love should expect to be treated better than the way you treat your customers and work colleagues. So really, I’m setting the bar kind of low for you, but I can almost guarantee that if you begin thinking of your loved ones as your customers, they will become your best customers and you will begin to feel like the hero you want to be to them.

Holding on to your most loyal customer

If I ever get too far removed from one of my customers or business colleagues, the worst thing I can do is just ignore the problem and hope they don’t leave for one of my competitors. However, when you get to that place in business, the temptation is to do just that. You’re embarrassed and don’t really want to face your customer, or it just seems like too much work, so you’re tempted to procrastinate or just move on. Instead, I have to swallow my pride a little, get an appointment with that customer, and just put the cards on the table: “Hey, we haven’t been paying enough attention to you lately, and I’m sure it shows in the way we are serving you. I’m here to tell you we’re going to start treating you like a brand new account and get things back on track again.”

And that’s exactly what we need to do when we have lost touch with our families. There’s no perfect way to do this, but the following steps will help you begin to reconnect with your most important customer.

Make a Date with Your Spouse
Give them as much "scheduled" time as you give your customers.

Lean into the problem. The best leaders I know never hesitate to admit they are wrong or that they’ve made a mistake, and they don’t waste any time doing it. Instead of avoiding problems, they lean into them. Surprise your wife and ask her to pick a day when she can meet you for lunch. Then put your cards on the table, so to speak. Thank her for meeting you and tell her you know that you’ve let too many things interfere with your relationship with her and your children. Tell her you want to make some changes but that you want her input. Then invite her to say whatever she wants.

Don’t just listen. It’s one thing to listen to your customers. But if you don’t follow through on what they say, they will take their business elsewhere. If a colleague asks for my input, I’m always impressed when he pulls out a piece of paper and takes notes. It shows me that he values what I have to say. It may seem awkward, but when you ask for your wife’s input on the changes she’d like to see, write them down. If she seems taken aback by that, explain that you’re serious about this and that she’s as important as any client, with whom you would do the same thing.

Be prepared. When a sales rep has to meet with three different customers in a day, he tries to spend a little time before each appointment going over his file on the customer just to make sure he’s prepared. It helps him address the customer’s unique needs and give that customer his full attention. Sometimes the transition from the office to home is clouded with the things that are on your mind from work, causing you to let them creep into your relationships with your family. You wouldn’t think of walking into a business appointment and talking about the meeting you just had with another customer, but that’s often what we do when we walk in the door after a long day at the office. Use your drive home to prepare for what you really want when you get home: an enjoyable experience with the people you love. Reflect on your wife, her needs, hopes, and dreams. Focus on your kids and think of what their day at school was like. Mentally page through your profile about your wife and children to prepare for a great “appointment” with them.

More than a customer

I know this business language might seem inappropriate when thinking about your loved ones, and in a way it is. Time spent with your family is not really an appointment, and all that you know about them is much more than a profile. But it’s the language we use fifty to sixty hours a week, and sometimes our language dictates to us what is most important. If your family doesn’t have a slot in your calendar or a file in your customer database, they might not get the attention they deserve. It’s strange how that works, which is why we should undo all of that by learning how to treat the people we love as if they were our customers.

Taken from Treat Me Like a Customer by Louis Upkins. Copyright © 2009 by Louis Upkins . Used by permission of Zondervan.

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