Written by Ian Landsman in

4 Types of Customers and How to Serve Them

Customers are businesses. They come in many different shapes and sizes. They come with different demands and budgets. They come with their own use cases and complexities.

Customers are people. They have their own expectations, past experiences, insights and limitations. They come with shopping habits and strong personalities.

You can’t treat your customers with a one-size-fits-all approach. By being able to quickly identify key traits of your customers, you can tailor how you support them. Doing so will help to preserve your relationship, strengthen customer loyalty, and, ultimately, compel them to return for another purchase or upgrade when the time is right.

How do we treat them differently, the more we get to know what they’re like? Below are a few types of customers you’ll come across, with tips for how to engage with them.

The One and Done Customer

They may indicate immediately that they only need this one thing, and that’s it. They don’t like small talk, they don’t like to chit chat. This customer knows what they’re looking for, found it, and is doing what’s necessary to get it. They may show this type of personality as early as the initial sale, or when their brief support requests come in from time to time. They’ll subscribe to your service, but you won’t hear from them often.

Work at their pace. If they don’t seem to want to build a relationship through dialogue, that’s okay. The best thing you can do for them is be there when they need you, and efficiently get what they need done in order to make them feel supported.

Building a relationship doesn’t require long conversations. You can build trust with simple, short proactive outreach that keeps the customer up-to-date on new features, provides quick tips they should be using and offers solutions for common headaches your clients tend to deal with. While not being too demanding of their time with content and conversations that require time commitments, giving them ways to engage with you for :30 seconds during a busy day may be all you need to keep your service top-of-mind and remind them of why you benefit them.

And while they might not tell you they like you all that often, but if you build up their trust, they may just spare a few words to refer your product to someone else they know.

The Constant Complainer

We’ve talked about this guy. The most vocal of your customers. Quick to call out features they don’t like, changes they’d rather not have seen happen, and all the things they wish you’d offer that you don’t. They’re very quick to let you know when you messed up, and they probably tell your other customers (and potential ones), too.

But we know that this complainer speaks for many customers that aren’t taking the time to complain. In fact, they’re probably speaking for many customers that, rather than feel angry at your product, are instead just becoming apathetic. Apathetic customers don’t stay your customers for long.

Engage with constant complainer. Thank them for their feedback, and let them know you appreciate how often they give their opinion. Don’t just say you do. Show how their ideas and concerns are carried back to your product development teams. Reference their past issues when you’re speaking to them to indicate that you pay attention. That you listen.

A complaining customer is one providing you valuable insight. Take advantage of what they voice, and turn it into better processes and products.

The Window Shopper

This is the potential customer who keeps inquiring, shows up at webinars, watches private demos and even has used your free trial, but has not yet pulled the trigger.

Likewise, this is the existing customer who knows they need to renew or upgrade, has thought about it, asked you a series of questions, but has yet to commit.

These window shoppers require a bit more work - and a lot of interaction - but they’re critically valuable to your business, as well. Someone who is likely to want to converse with you is equally likely to be dismayed when you don’t reciprocate equal attention and interest.

These customers might have a lot of questions, but you should have questions for them, too. Ask them what they want. Take an active interest in learning what their use cases might be for your service. By taking a role in understanding their business, you can help identify with them - or even for them - the right solutions for them. They might just stop in from time to time but never convert because they don’t know the right questions to ask to get the answers they need to convince them, or more importantly, to convince their superiors. You taking an active role in this relationship - waving hello every time they walk by your store window, similarly, proactively reaching out from time to time to tell them what’s new on display these days - will go a long way in gaining the trust and business of a company.

And once that customer is supported by you? Keep the conversation going, whether they’re actively reaching out to your company or not for help. Frequently send them educational resources, tips and how-tos. Share your case studies to help them see what other services and features you offer they haven’t checked out yet. By doing this, you can get them to more frequently commit to fully investigating what you have to offer, and even trying on some new things for themselves.

The Brand Ambassador

Who doesn’t love the brand ambassador? This is every company’s dream: a customer so happy, they frequently talk about their happiness with other potential customers, whether they like you for the product you offer, the service you provide or otherwise. The value of this individual goes beyond any bills they pay you - this individual leads to more brand awareness, more leads and more paying customers!

Of course you want to stay in touch with this brand champion. You want to send them all of the helpful, educational resources you send everyone else. But this isn’t kindergarten, and you’re not just giving Valentine’s Day cards to every kid in your class. You want to make the brand ambassador your business’ best friend. That requires personalized, thoughtful attention.

When you identify a brand ambassador, make sure to reach out a minimum of twice per year to see how they are doing. Thank them for the referrals you’ve seen, the reviews they’ve shared, or even the mentions of your brand they’ve posted online. Ask them - and really listen - to what they want to see from you next. How could you make their service even better for them?

Customers want to know you care about them. The more you can convince a customer that you listen to what they’re looking for and you’re working hard to provide it for them, the more you’ll turn undecided window shoppers, the silent one-and-done customers and the constant complainers into active brand ambassadors.

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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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