If you’re on any social networking site, and in particular on Facebook, you’ll almost certainly have seen a meme that periodically does the rounds in one form or other. It affirmatively declares something like:
“The best friends in life are the low maintenance ones; the ones you can go months or years without seeing, but when you do see them it’s like nothing has changed.”
Now, I’m about to say something a little controversial:
This is a lot of hogwash.
When did this become okay? In a world where technology has made it easier than ever before to maintain contact with our loved ones, why has society collectively embraced the notion that falling out of touch with friends is tolerable, and even desirable?
As a self-confessed “high maintenance” friend (a ‘HM’), I love to spend time with people who want to spend time with me. They are, I believe, my better and best friends. The effort, which is minimal nowadays, in maintaining contact through phone, emails, messaging services and video calls, is paid back tenfold in the mutual interest, affection and support those friendships bring.
“Always, Sir, set high value on spontaneous kindness. He whose inclination prompts him to cultivate your friendship of his own accord will love you more than one whom you have been at pains to attach to you.”Samuel Johnson
You might wonder why I’m airing such personal views on LinkedIn, the professional network. The relevance is, to me, fairly straightforward. We are, ultimately and, in some cases, perhaps a little unbelievably, all human beings. We are genetically programmed and have evolved to interact with each other. And that carries through to all areas of our life, from friendship to finance, from best friends to business, from kith and kin to commerce.
Yet, when dealing with people in business, we can be very quick to label those high-touch clients as ‘needy’ and ‘high maintenance’. They are irritating. We might shut down our service ethics and become less responsive in those situations.
But, in doing that we are missing a trick. Those needy clients are the ones we have the most opportunity to impress, to learn from, and, vitally, to improve our service levels for and through.
Increasing your responsiveness and engaging openly with your high maintenance clients can help you understand their needs. Those needs are very likely to be similar to the needs of all your clients.
A regular cycle of communication, and a consistent service experience with your organisation (regardless of whether they deal with one account manager or twenty different customer service agents), massively increases your ability to quickly fight fires and respond to feedback before it escalates.
If you invest all your time in your ‘easy’ clients – those quieter ones with fewer obvious needs – the high maintenance ones will give up. If you focus too much on the easy relationships, you get none of the benefits which a great high-touch customer can bring you. Increased loyalty. Great references. Ultimately, success to shout about.
Look after the HMs out there. They could be your new best friend!
This article first appeared on my Linkedin publications in May 2018