There are many types of partnerships that are cultivated in your professional and personal life; vendors, internal an external partners, bosses and subordinates, not to mention friends and family. The fundamental principles of great customer service; transparency, communication and providing value are the same tools which can be leveraged to build rewarding and lasting partnerships.
1. Be transparent – know what you need and what your partner needs and make sure both destinations are on your roadmap
When first entering into a partnership, think through your goals. What do you need from this person, team or organization, and what do they need from you? Being clear and transparent about your goals works like a roadmap. It will guide your interactions and drive your choices. Perhaps you are working with a vendor, the goal could be a simple as they have a product to sell, and you have a need for the product. But, if you can, dig a bit deeper into this by thinking more about the specific needs you have. Why are you buying this product? What need is being served? What barriers could prevent the deal? Then you are in a better position to focus on what you want and need, and avoid both parties having to spend time on the things that aren’t critical to your deal. In customer service, open and closed questions are used to determine the real, root cause of an issue. Ask ‘why’ (repeatedly) and drill down until you have a clear and real understanding of objectives.
2. Communicate well, and often – ask exactly for what you want, but remember that you can't always get what you want
Honesty and clarity in communication are powerful tools when building relationships. Do you have a problem? Say something. Is there something you need that you are not getting? Ask for it, clearly and directly. Communicate what your expectations are along the way, so your partner can work to meet those goals. However, partnerships must be mutually beneficial. Expect that you'll have to negotiate and compromise as well. Be open to divergent perspectives and never be afraid to offer up your own. Create an environment where you partner feels free to express their needs as well. Be judgment free and non-defensive. Listen actively. Allow the space and time for good communication to happen.
3. Provide added value – respect what your partner brings to the table, bring something to the party as well
In customer service, providing added value in any interaction helps build loyalty and inspire brand affinity. It encourages repeat business and positive word of mouth. Great customer service is great marketing. In your personal partnerships, providing value works the same way. Give more than you take in your relationships. While the net return will be intangible, it will be the "thing" that makes people want to partner with you again and again. Be proactive, go the extra mile, be kind. Remember to always be empathic in your dealings and demonstrate that you are thinking of both of your best interests. Be helpful, provide referrals, speak well of the people you work with. And when your partner does the same for you in return, thank them. Show your application and gratitude for their value too. The Golden Rule works for a reason. Set the tone and be the example of how you'd like your relationship to operate.
My most rewarding relationships have all been built on the foundation of transparency, communication and value. The upfront investment of time and effort will create lasting relationships, which will continue to pay out dividends over time.