Developing and Maintaining Superb Long-Term Business and Personal Relationships

relationshipsI attended NAPFA’s South Symposium in Atlanta last Monday. Wonderful event. The focus was on “Communicating Excellence to Clients.” Horst Schulze, co-founder and past CEO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was the featured speaker. We all know about the service culture at the Ritz-Carlton- the only company to ever twice win the Malcom Baldrige Quality award. His remarks were simple, yet tremendously powerful for anyone who is interested in providing exceptional service and/or developing superb long-term term business and personal relationships.

The three key elements are:

  • No defects
  • Caring delivery
  • Timeliness

People want service without defects. The service needs to be designed so it can be expected to function perfectly within foreseeable boundaries. Sure, sometimes things will go wrong due to unpredictable circumstances. However, as Dr. Schulze said, “Sloppy or incomplete service design is, from a customer’s standpoint, intolerable.”

The perfect service also requires caring, friendly people to deliver it. This may sound simple, but, frankly, caring, friendly people seem to be in short supply these days. For example, think of how you are generally treated at the airport, the doctor’s office, or on the phone before and after you get to speak with a real human being. Communicating is huge in this regard. Every. Word. Counts. Body language is also a big key. Lastly, Dr. Schulze implored us to “cool our jets/passions” and make sure we make listening a primary component in all business and personal conversations.

A defect-free service delivered by caring and friendly people if delivered late is the same as a defective service. In today’s fast-paced world, delivery standards and expectations continue to get tougher all the time. The key is to learn your customers’ definition of time and obey their definition, not your own. Dr. Schulze gave us an example of an attorney who received a client question by voicemail. The attorney started the research and after four days, submitted a carefully crafted, well-researched opinion by e-mail only to find that the client was irate. The attorney didn’t realize this information was needed earlier than that and hadn’t called or emailed the client to get a better understanding of the client’s expectations before diving into the project.

Dr. Schulze also gave us some excellent pearls of wisdom relative to these three goals. “When we say it’s deadly to cut costs that cheapen your product or service in ways that matter to your customer, we mean it.” “When we say you need to take the customer’s position quickly, or you might as well not take it at all, we mean it.” And, “when we say that you serve but you are not a servant, we mean it.” Although Dr. Schulze’s comments were presented primarily in a business context, it is easy to see how important the three key elements are in personal relationships as well.

I encourage each of you to think about these concepts and how they relate to all of your relationships. At DWM, we strive for client loyalty, employee loyalty and great long-term business and personal relationships. Ours is not a “job,” it’s a passion to help people understand and meet or exceed their financial goals, of all kinds. We’re always looking to improve our service and welcome new valuable input and suggestions from team members, experts such as Dr. Schulze, clients, friends and others so we can update our processes. If you have any suggestions for us, please let us know. We’re all ears, as is my grandson Henry:

Henry's ears