In business, customer-facing professionals can have a friendly relationship with their customers, but they can’t really be friends.
When you deal with a long term customer, you will become more comfortable in each other’s presence and will start to feel relaxed. It is probably a good thing. The good feelings that result will change the dynamics of the relationship. But, it shouldn’t change the nature of the relationship.
The moment you forget the nature of your relationship, problems arise that can destroy not only your business relationship but also the good personal relationship you might have developed.
For example,your customers, will start asking for favors. They might want to play with pricing as per their demand or expect you to support them any time they want. If you don’t give it, their feelings will be hurt and will take offense. And once that has happened, it is almost impossible to get the relationship back on track.
During a recent customer interaction, I let the guard down. I was too friendly helping the customer in setting up a feature and in the progress, unknowingly, a mistake was made which could have costed them. Though the situation was handled on time, I was still too casual which irked his frustration and anger. On realization, I had to switch back to my professional mode but the damage was already done. Further interactions, weren’t the same way it used to be.
So, never let your guard down. No matter how comfortable you become with each other, your relationship is still that of buyer and seller. You can be friendly with customers, but not a friend