Clients for Life: How to Create Win-Win Partnerships with Customers

By Dr. Andy Edelman

 Unfortunately, in today’s “win at any cost” competitive work world, many organizations have trained their people to go for the quick kill, the fast buck, and the “closed deal.” However, if you’ve ever been given the short end of the stick, you know that empty feeling inside that you’ve just been taken. Yes, they got your money today, but you’ll never do business with them again.

In order to combat this negative customer service trend, true organizational leaders know that it is far less costly to keep loyal customers than it is to find new ones. But how is this done? How can we keep clients for life? Here are some tips that you can use to ensure that your customer service will keep them coming back.

  1. Create a leadership mission of service through collaboration and cooperation – Rather than creating a company that “steps” on and belittles the competition, create an organizational climate that strives to build strategic partnerships and relationships. Perhaps your organization won’t get rich quick and easy, but long-term gains are often staggering.
  2. Think process and people – World-class organizations recognize that efficiency and productivity comes from the successful blend of brilliance in process as well as genius in people. This combination does not happen by accident. World champion sports teams create their strategies, tactics and playbooks with care and precision while at the same time teaching their concepts to players that are capable and willing to execute them. Great organizations seeking long-term client relations must mirror this exact process
  3. Look at the little and big picture – Taking both a micro and macro view of problems will create a problem-solving environment that critically analyzes both the forest and the trees. It does no good for an airline pilot to focus solely on the tiny blinking light on the instrument panel while ignoring the fact that the plane is heading directly for the side of a mountain range. Organizations must look at all sides of problems and allow input from all members of the organization, no matter what their perceived status.
  4.  Recruit and select potential champions who can take the heat – Selecting the best and the brightest is only half of the challenge. These high performers must also be willing and able to be coached, trained, and to take constructive criticism and correction. World-class athletes stay at the top of their game by seeking out constant and never ending improvement opportunities. Organizational shining stars are great to have on board but they must also be able to take direction from others when necessary.
  5. Training for teamwork and contingencies – Once organizations have selected their best players, they must provide consistent and useful training opportunities for learning and growth. Training should only take place if it is a) applicable to actual real-world scenarios likely to be faced and b) delivered in a cost-effective, practical format and c) presented by dynamic and knowledgeable instructors. Although training is typically the first item to be downsized during rough financial times, organizations should value training as a distinct priority for both short and long-term financial growth.
  6.  Retain and reward high performers – Organizations that value their people will do their best to create a “dream job” climate. Above average salaries, bonuses, incentives, flex time, and “room to breathe” management style should be administrative priorities. It is important to remember that when you take care of your people, they’ll take care of you…and your clients.
  7. Promote your people in private and in public – Catch people doing things right, and let them know how much you appreciate them. Organizational leadership experts have long acknowledged the value of “others-promotion.” This, in turn, often has a spin-off effect in the staff’s motivation to go the extra mile for customers and clients.
  8. Praise your competition – Yes, we live in a competitive world, but that does not mean that we cannot find something positive to say about our competition. Many successful organizational empires have been created by a collaborative approach to achievement. Stepping on an opponent only encourages the same behavior when the shoe is on someone else’s foot.
  9.  Find the growth opportunity in every stumbling block – It took 10,000 tries for Edison to perfect the light bulb and 1,000 rejections for Sly Stallone to get Hollywood approval for the script of Rocky. In fact, the Chinese character for crisis is the same as opportunity. Thus, rather than dwell on the “failure” of a given decision and waste time blaming, it is far more productive and creative to take a Mythbusters approach to solving the problem. Remember that even complete and utter failure will at least show the organization what is NOT a desirable outcome and offer chances for correction.
  10. Treat every client and every contact as a V.I.P. – In every interaction with clients and customers, choose your words and actions very carefully. Remember that today’s unknown account might become tomorrow’s Oprah; therefore treat everyone and every organization with unconditional respect.

By treating your clients with friendly and honest customer service on a daily basis, you will be able to keep them for life.


Dr. Andrew J. Edelman has more than 20 years of training and development experience in conflict management, personal safety and criminal justice. A consultant and speaker, Dr. Edelman works with corporations, universities, school districts and government agencies including the U.S. Marshals Service, United Way, and the New York City Department of Health. He is a professor at the University of Phoenix South Florida campus and is a certified law enforcement officer. For more information on his speaking and consulting, please visit: