7 Reasons Why a Client Can’t Be Your BFF


Clients aren’t like everyone else. Not even if they seem that way at lunch or when sharing a laugh after the meeting.

Even in the best of partnerships and collaborations, when there is a commercial relationship – it’s just different.

Remember when your favorite doctor spent half of your appointment talking about the challenges of moving to a new office? Or, your “go to” contractor let you know he’ll be a bit late on your work because he is “so maxed out?” Or, your trusted financial planner spent 30 minutes sharing how her son used too much of the college fund and ruined her financial plan? Exactly. You care, sort of …

A commercial relationship always changes the game. I am big on trusted relationships and partnerships, but a client never forgets deep down that they are a client. We are wise never to forget that either.

Here are some signs you’ve let your client slip into BFF status:

  • Over sharing: You tell your client everything and anything. They hear about the problems with your ex, your financial pressures and you spend meeting times sharing personal matters. You have moved off of the work and smack into a personal relationship.
  • “In pencil” commitments: Because you have such a good relationship, you view commitments as negotiable or flexible. The deadline can slip a week because you think your client knows you care. They’ll understand.
  • Too comfortable: You feel very comfortable commenting on anything. You share everything that is wrong with other team members, other groups and the entire company. Because, after all, you are BFFs. This gets worse when you add in the extra glass – or two – of wine.
  • Take them for granted: You treat new clients with greater care and attention because you haven’t yet achieved BFF status. So, you want to work for it. Those familiar clients will surely always be there.
  • Forgotten client basics: You set aside the basics that clients take for granted – except when they aren’t there. Agendas for meetings, proactive planning, meeting deadlines, timely updates, as well as timely arrivals become optional rather than essential.
  • Stop bringing new ideas: Because you’re comfortable, you forget that you add value by bringing new ideas and solutions. Or, you stop thinking “what does my client need to be successful?” If you aren’t thinking about new ideas, you definitely can’t share new ideas.
  • Forget to ask “how are we doing?”: The essential ingredient for great customer service is asking for feedback. Clients always want to be asked, “How are we doing? How can we be more effective?” Asking this question regularly communicates that you not only care about the relationship, but the results.

Even if your client is a candidate for your best man, one of your mentors or your favorite dinner guest, never forget that a client is a client. They are counting on you.

 Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults. She can be followed on Twitter @pattibjohnson.