At least once every month I hear a business person saying ‘We want to be seen as partners by our customers’. This seems an oxymoron to me. Here is why.
The relationships between partners vs. customers are different. Here are some definitions from a dictionary I want to express the differences.
Customer – a person who buys goods and services.
Partnership – a person who takes part in an undertaking with another. In a business with shared risk and profits.
Relation – the way in which two or more people are connected.
Does a chef want his customer to see him as a partner? Of course not. The relationship is transactional. Without financial transaction you won’t get food served.
In a healthy partnership between two people, either one of them might provide a similar service as the chef. The relationship is devotional. One may provide the service without expecting anything in return.
In a healthy marriage the partners promise to be true to one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.
Why am I writing this? Well, next time when you think about saying you want your customers to see you as a partner, please think about the above.
Ask yourself: ‘Do I really want a partnership? Share risks, profits and losses in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health?’ or ‘Do I just want them to pay for my service without nagging about the price?’