Businesspeople who are active in a physical or online community will sometimes have contact with customers on a professional or personal basis. This happens frequently in small towns or commonly shared online communities.
Migrating back and forth over the line that divides professional and personal life isn’t something that has to be avoided, but a careful balance should be maintained. Getting too buddy-buddy with people who are primarily customers can put the business owner at risk of being negatively impacted if there’s personal fallout.
These tips can help business professionals find and maintain the balance in regards to connecting with their customers on a personal and professional basis.
Tips for Balancing Personal and Professional Customer Connections
Preserve a Professional Image.
Business professionals are often held to very high standards by their customers. If a business owner wants to be deemed worthy of a customer’s business, he or she must set an example of professionalism. It’s unrealistic for someone in business to expect customers to view them as regular people at night and professionals by day. The line between the two quickly becomes blurry, and a person who behaves in an inappropriate manner during social interactions will be viewed less favorably as a professional.
Be Selective about Connections.
There are times when mingling socially with customers is unavoidable. Family members, long-time friends, and neighbors are a few examples of customers a businessperson might be able to successfully connect with as a professional and in their personal life. But it’s better to maintain an exclusively professional relationship with those who aren’t in the family or part of a close-knit group of friends.
Being an active part of a physical or online community is important for business owners as it’s important to give back to the community that’s helped the company become successful. When interacting with customers in social settings, the businessperson should employ boundaries that prevent him or her from crossing the line.
No matter what everyone else is doing, the businessperson needs to remember the high standards most customers will have for him or her. Likewise, if the social situation suddenly gets out of hand, a smart individual will take that as the cue to leave.
Clean Up Quickly after Mishaps.
One of the greatest risks involved in mingling with customers on a personal level is that mishaps can occur and threaten to damage one’s business. If an argument or misunderstanding has occurred during a social occasion, things can get blown out of proportion, and negative publicity can result. Damage control should begin as soon as possible and include tasks such as following theÂ best way to deal with negative postingsÂ on social media.
Friends versus Friendly
A business owner doesn’t have to be friends with everyone to be a success, but he or she should have a friendly demeanor. Those who confuse the two may find themselves in the middle of more sticky situations than they care to think about. An upbeat personality and good customer service will go a long way in encouraging loyal customers.
Although getting to know customers on a personal level can be beneficial in some cases, there are also times when it can prove to be detrimental. The businessperson who has frequent contact with customers in social settings must be able to approach these situations in a manner that preserves their reputation and integrity as a professional. One small compromise or mistake can lead to irreparable damage.
About the Author
Mary YliselaÂ is an author who writes about small business professional development and reputation management topics.