Why Playing Favorites With Clients Is Problematic

Be friendly not friends with your clients to avoid familiarity breeding contempt.

When clients become friends the lines get blurred.

When you come across a client you absolutely love - it's feels amazing. They get you, you get them. It's easy, they don't over-react, they're responsive, open to suggestions, take action and together you're working on creating maximum value for both your companies.


But there are some hidden dangers:

  1. You neglect your other clients. You spend way too much time with the clients you like at the expense of being proactive with your other accounts. You grow increasingly distant from your portfolio, especially the clients who aren't inclined to call you. Out of sight, out of mind. Neglected clients are unhappy clients.

  2. You over-service (bend the rules). You like your client so much that you never say no. You bend the rules or find work arounds to accommodate their requests. Just this once, suddenly becomes all the time. And that leads to unmanageable service levels that you can't sustain. And that are impossible for anyone inheriting your accounts to live up to.

  3. You say too much. Your relationship with your favorite clients becomes increasingly informal and you both bitch and gossip. You reveal too much of what is going on behind the scenes in your organization. That leads to lack of confidence and trust because the company message may conflict with what you're telling your clients.

  4. Difficult conversations are even harder. You hate to be the bearer of bad news. You don't want to disappoint your favorite clients. And when you do share news on things like price increases, delays to product releases, changes to service delivery—you blame your company rather than defend it.

  5. You step out of line. When something goes wrong, your client calls you. They call you about a refund. They call you about a service issue. Instead of supporting internal team decisions, you champion your client's cause. You interfere, undermine, and direct others instead of letting them handle it.

  6. You slack off. You and your client pivot to cruise control. You stop being ambitious maintaining the status quo rather than work towards goals that will help each other get to the next level. You stop delivering your best because you know you can get away with less. 

  7. You stop expanding your network. You're in a comfortable rut with your favorite clients. Things tick along, you know they have your back and are your champion. So you put all your relationship eggs in one basket. You don't worry about meeting new people. You become completely dependent on one person and massively risky in the event they leave.

  8. Your judgement is clouded. You have a bias toward your customer. In your eyes they're always right and your company is always wrong. You're supposed to represent the voice of the customer and your organisation, but you lose perspective and neutrality.

Listen to your professional instincts. You know when you've crossed a line - and when you do, dial it back.

Worth a click

What is inflation? My days of studying economics are long gone, and I was never very good at it anyway. So I don't know much about inflation besides the fact that prices go up and buying power goes down. This is a great explanation from McKinsey about what causes inflation and the impact. It's a hot topic for you, your business, and your clients, so it's worth learning more about what inflation means for all of us.

+ How to get your kid to do stuff without having to constantly remind them. Nagging doesn't work, with kids or clients. A lot of ideas in this article apply to more than children like starting with problem solving, don't just tell, teach and expect to revisit things.

+ Glasp is a social web highlighter that you can use to highlight and clip quotes and thoughts from the web. Whenever you're reading an article, just highlight a phrase and it copies and you can organize them later. I love this for when I'm doing client research. I can clip paragraphs and turn them into briefs and exec summaries in minutes.


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