Nobody likes the “friend zone” — especially when it’s a business relationship.

Unfortunately, for many small businesses the “friend zone” is a pitfall of close customer relationships. And more so when the number of customers is limited.

The business sees its regular customer as a friend, and the regular customer sees a friend in the business it frequents.

There’s a deceiving familiarity, appreciation, and a comfort level.

But when the business takes that frequent customer for granted, both parties enter the “friend zone.”

In the business “friend zone,” relaxed quality commitments result in customer disappointment.

Now, instead of positive recommendations and endless free referrals, the customer in the friend zone is put-off and weary.

For some reason, the business begins rewarding that customer’s frequent (and once-continued) business with sub-par service they would never consider providing to a new lead.

In-person meetings become phone calls. Phone calls become text messages. Text messages are now ignored.

Product quality goes from extraordinary to satisfactory to underwhelming to insulting.

Customer service was punctual and attentive. Now it’s absent and forgotten.

And it’s all due to a perceived, relaxed comfort level with a frequent customer — because I know this person and this person loves my business, I don’t have to try as hard.

While the business relationship is an unfortunate casualty of this type of service deterioration, the personal friendship that also formed because of the initial quality business relationship also dies.

Protect yourself, commit to always making your business better (regardless of the customer), innovate, self-reflect, reinvent, and stay out of the “friend zone.”

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