The Give & Take of Customer Relationships

by Jeannie Walters

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A wise friend once told me that relationships are like banks…you can only make withdrawals if you’ve deposited enough. The same is true for customer relationships. My friend Tim Sanchez, a fellow customer experience provocateur, wrote a compelling blog post titled The Perception Baseline and Its Impact on Customer Experience. This post, and the comments that followed, got me thinking about this idea of give and take between organizations and the customers they serve.

My comment focused on this idea from Tim: “…each experience has an effect on the starting point for the next.”
It’s like family, right? We all lug around emotional baggage from the past and it heavily influences how we see the present. Ever attend a family reunion where Cousin Jane is upset with Cousin Bubba about something that happened 30 years ago? Bubba might be making extraordinary efforts to win Jane’s approval today, but her past experiences have had an effect on the “starting point” of where they are at that reunion.
If customer X feels he or she has contributed a significant amount of anything (money, time, energy, attitude, patience, effort…) and doesn’t get a return on that investment, Customer X will feel:
  • betrayed
  • disappointed
  • hurt
  • angry
  • or all of the above.

Often, companies assume it’s about money. In this economy, sometimes it is. But often it’s investment of another, less tangible and more emotional, kind. Think about the give and take between customers and a service company. If the first experience is excellent, the employee likable and empathic, the next less-than-wonderful experience might just slide. There is enough in the “bank” of the relationship to weather a small hiccup in service. If it is rectified in a timely and compassionate manner, customers are more than likely to feel even better about the relationship. On the flip side, think of those times when you as a customer have invested. You are standing in line, filling out forms AGAIN, frustrated with processes or people that don’t work and you get nothing but a simple, yet emotionally lacking, transaction at best.  There aren’t enough deposits in that bank to allow for those kind of withdrawals. When I interview customers, a lot of the time I hear about one employee who made a difference. “I was beyond frustrated with Joe, but once Betty stepped in I felt like she cared about me.” So even though Joe had not made the proper deposits, Betty was making up for it by working double-time on the relationship. So think about what you can do to make deposits into the bank of the relationship BEFORE you need to make withdrawals. What are you doing TODAY to prepare for those hiccups in the future?

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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