Friday, March 3, 2017

How Vulnerability Can Improve Your Customer Relationships.

Growing up in the 90's, television and movies portrayed the typical 'business man' archetype, as someone who was a steely-eyed gentleman in a freshly pressed suit and often with hat to match. These men sometimes came with a cigar in hand, and they rarely smiled or exhibited any emotion whatsoever.

Looking back I can that this vision of a 'business man' came from a belief that prevailed for generations, "to be a great leader you had to show zero positive emotion around those who look up to you, to be a pillar of stoicism". Yet in what was supposed to come across as a symbol of strength, I could see fear. A fear of being vulnerable.

Even today, many people believe that being vulnerable is something to be feared, as it somehow implies that you are weak or defenceless. In fact, when someone is willing to admit they’re vulnerable, it demonstrates a level of trust and respect with the person or people you’re opening up to. I am not going to lie; it is hard to admit you are vulnerable. But when do it can mean a complete transformation in relationships and performance. It can offer opportunities to connect with customers in a way that makes them believe with their entire being that you are the solution to their problem.

Personal experience has taught me that revealing a little bit of vulnerability can go a long way in your relationships, both personally and professionally. One of the best leaders, I’ve known was willing to let a few of the cracks show, and aimed for honesty rather than perceived perfection. This is also crucial to getting, keeping and satisfying customers.

The following points will help you to give your customers the gift of vulnerability;

Change your view on vulnerability

Since we have been in nappies our nature reaction when something with awry was to cover it up. As professionals, many of us continue this behaviour by making things appear less disastrous than they are when they don't go as planned.

However, as kids when we tried to cover up our mess, it always came back to bite us in the ass when truth out about our lies was uncovered. So why have we not learnt our lesson, is it that we don't respect ourselves enough, to tell the truth, or our customer's enough to think they can handle the truth.

Being vulnerable is not a bad thing nor does it make you weak. Instead, you stop wasting energy inventing lies to protect yourself from what you do not your customers to see.

By shifting your mindset to accept to being vulnerable as an asset, you stop worrying about having the answer to every question and realise that its ok to make mistakes. After all, it is through these mistakes that we learnt and continue to learn as adults. However, when you or your team makes a mistake, you should admit it and admit it quickly. You should always be the first one to call attention to a misstep, instead of waiting to see if a customer catches it.

Once you are willing to admit the mistake you have to be willing, to tell the truth about why it happened. If the truth is that someone within your organisation dropped the ball. Be forthright, apologise and then explain exactly how you plan to solve the problem. Running a business is tough you expect the best from everyone and in turn, your customers expect the best from you. However, they also understand that you’re human.

So be honest, and then work your hardest to move on from your error and try to never make the same one again.

Confidence is key

Allowing your yourself to become vulnerable means you become transparent with your customers. However, when you start to offer your customers transparency you need to do so with confidence so that you don't give them a reason to lose certainty in your abilities.

To put it simply, you want to relay problems honestly while not undermining how awesome you are. Your customers are entrusting you with their money, after all, so a lack of self-confidence could make them second-guess your entire relationship together. Surely, this is the last thing you want!

The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem - Captain Jack Sparrow
When you are offering your customer a piece of information, you first have to ask why it is you are offering them this information.

Every time you consider being totally transparent, the best rule of thumb is to do so when an action by someone on your team is likely to impact your customer directly. The same rule of thumb applies when you offer your customers software as a service and it experiences an issue. ( i.e. Does this issue directly impact any of your customers?)

If so, and you want to get ahead of the issue, you should be the first to bring it up. If not, you can probably spare your client from being burdened with unnecessary information.

Do you want your customers to trust you?

Vulnerability, transparency they both ultimately boil down a matter of trust. Your customers need to be able to trust you unequivocally to do the job you promised to do.

This is something with which you should never gamble. A late deliverable, an error on pricing and a mishap with technology all have one thing in common: they can all be rectified. And they also don’t have to damage your relationship if you’re proactively transparent as soon as possible. Lying and manipulating are of another nature entirely, and severe trust while weakening your credibility.

So, aim to be truthful in all your interactions with your customers. Vulnerability is a big gift and when used appropriately, you can prove your trustworthiness while helping to connect more authentically with your customers.

We can help

With services like StatusHub, you can foster stronger relationships with your customers by exposing issues your company is currently facing. With StatusHub you can also warn your customers about future plans that may affect how they use your services.

By offering a centralised hub where you can communicate with all your customers at the same time via a dedicated web page, SMS and email. You can have more time to focus on the issue at hand.

Sign up for a 14-day free trial today to see how StatusHub can help you, change your view on vulnerability and improve the relationships you have with your customers as a result.