A week ago, I posted a message from Jason Tweed, of Leading Home Care, concerning how we refer to the folks we serve in senior care and home care. The whole discussion may seem a bit esoteric, but it really is a question of respect and caring enough to “get it right.”
One way we actually look at it reflects our own experience in a variety of industries and lines of business, crystalized by my co-owner at Support For Home.
We both came out of Information Technology (finishing at Intel Corporation), before starting our home care agency. In IT, we spend a lot of time thinking about “transactions” processed by computers. Are they simple or complex (multi-part, sequential or parallel)? We also encounter a myriad of transactions in our daily lives, of course.
If I buy shaving cream (sorry, but I need to, so it’s on my mind) at the drug store, that is a short transaction. I am a customer making a purchase. I’m in and out. I expect good customer service, but there is really nothing personal about the interaction or the transaction.
In our view, that is what makes a customer a customer. I have a short transaction with a business that involves a request that is fairly simple to satisfy and that is not necessarily repeatable (I may go to a different store, in two months, for my next can, or I may grow a beard again 🙂 – just kidding, Boss). We are all customers, often a number of times per day. It is a good thing to be, when we are treated well, but we are essentially defined as customers of a business by having only short term transactions with that business.
Very different from the relationship between a business and its customers (all those short transactions) is the relationship of a business and its “clients.” I am a client of a number of businesses. My relationship with those businesses essentially involves “long transactions” and usually involves an extended period of time. For example, as the owner of a home care agency, Support For Home, I am a client of our CPA, our corporate attorney, our insurance broker and insurance companies, … I am a patient to my doctor, but in my mind, I am her client, participating in long transactions – from tests to diagnoses to prescriptions to follow-ups to referrals to specialists …
The key word in the above paragraph is relationship. I have a relationship with my doctor, whereas I don’t with Walmart. As a home care business, we have relationships with each of our clients that is complex, involving long transactions. They are given, hopefully, not just customer service that they would find at Walmart, but respect, engagement, involvement in decision making, even oversight supervision of our services. They can fire us. That is a deeper relationship than exists for the Rite-Aid customer, and we take it very seriously.
Best wishes, Bert