Customer relationships are what will determine the health and prosperity of your computer consulting business. It is critical to understand the different dynamics of customer relationships. By doing this you can identify places of risk in terms of non-payment.
Customer Relationships – Two Distinctions
There are two main customer relationship types:
Long-Term, Steady Clients
Your long term clients are your bread and butter clients. These people see you as an insurance policy: they have the ability to call you, the ability to pay you, and you’re going to be there; pretty much right away to take care of things. The customer relationship you enjoy with these people is one of trust. They know that if they have a problem they can call you and you will fix it.
These clients pay on time. If they didn’t they would undermine the customer relationship and this is too risky. Would you feel comfortable calling your accountant if you were 5 months late in paying him or her? No. Likewise these people will pay you on time, every time.
Stepping stone clients do not enjoy such a healthy customer relationship. These clients perceive you as a commodity. If you don’t show up to fix something – Oh well. They’ll just call the next company in the phone book. They’re not interested in building solid customer relationships with you and therefore have no qualms whatsoever about stiffing you on an invoice.
The Bottom Line on Customer Relationships
If you want to get paid you have to understand the dynamics of customer relationships and use them to your advantage. The stepping-stone or cherry-picking clients think of you as replaceable. You want to build your business by building long-term customer relationships with steady clients on maintenance agreements. These are the sort of clients that will be almost offended by a past due notice and that’s a good thing for your billing and invoicing.