It’s adorable when people say your partner should be your “co-founder in life.”
Bless their hearts.
Because sure — your partner can be like your co-founder. You can do taxes together, fight about dividing responsibilities, and generally resent each other for your individual and combined weaknesses.
The people who say your partner should be your co-founder probably haven’t been around many co-founders. Don’t get me wrong, many co-founders have productive and meaningful relationships. But unless productivity is a metric of success in your love life, you probably don’t want co-founder dynamics anywhere near your relationship.
Instead, treat your partner like your customer.
1. Appreciate Your Customer
Business psychologists say that 68% of customers leave because they believe a company does not appreciate them. I think 95% of my breakups are for the same reason.
So imagine my disbelief when I dated someone who sent me a reason every day why he appreciated me. He found big and small and completely oddball reasons why he appreciated his customer.
Some all-time hits: 5. You Make Me Eat My Vegetables, 6. You’re Tough and Resilient, 16. Your Aspirations Are for Things that Actually Matter 22. The Look in Your Eyes When I’m Making a Good Point, 24. You’re Built to be a Founder, 26. You are Messy, 31. You Made Me Believe in Myself Again, 36. You Don’t Shave Your Legs When You’re Not Going to See Me* (*Your practicality in all matters is highly admirable)
2. Track Your Customer Satisfaction Score
“Without big data analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the Web like deer on a freeway.”
And aren’t men in relationships the same?
I once dated an entrepreneur who kept “Jess metrics.” His spreadsheet tracked how many times he made me smile – and how many days passed since the last “incident.”
His goals for “Jess happiness” were clearly marked. And true to his entrepreneur tendencies, he was pathologically determined to make his numbers. God bless him, he kept himself accountable.
This customer was going to be satisfied, one way or another.
It was both brilliantly awkward and enlightening the day I found “Jess metrics” on his open laptop. Looking at our relationship on a dashboard, I saw patterns and trends and identifiable areas of easy improvement.
If a spreadsheet sounds a little aggressive, perhaps start with squishy metrics:
That time I took Jess to get tacos and tequila: very good.
That time I interrupted Jess’ yoga schedule: very not good.
3. Use Customer Service Communication
“The customer is usually wrong; but statistics indicate that it doesn’t pay to tell him so.”
If you think communication in relationships is hard, you might be underusing the two most effective words in the customer service dictionary.
One boyfriend found that I literally clapped with joy every time he said, “you’re right.” I’m a big believer in operant conditioning. Armed with this positive reinforcement, he started to use “customer service communication” more often. And that got him a hell of a long way.
This isn’t about passivity. Businesses would go bankrupt if they were blindly submissive to their customers. This is about letting your customer communicate in a supported and non-defensive space.
“You do not have a problem” are fighting words.
Other customer service winners include: “How can I help,” “I’ll take responsibility,”“I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” and “The job will get done.”
4. Show Your Customer a Competitive Advantage
“You just have to be a little better than the best person to have a competitive advantage.” –My Father
In business, you will die without a competitive advantage. And in a world of ever increasing optionality in relationships, the same is likely true.
While you might think your romantic competitive advantage is related to you – your pedigree, your undoubtedly flawless sense of humor, your Forbes 30 Under 30 Status – I believe your strongest competitive advantage is what you can solve for your customer.
The secret to finding your competitive advantage is identifying what your partner thinks is least tolerable, attractive, or compelling about themselves, and positioning yourself as the unique solution to your customer’s problem.
The partners who have the strongest competitive advantage are those who not only tolerate, but appreciate and encourage the qualities for which I thought I’d never find product-market fit.
If you can get down with the opinions, the intensity, the intellectual jousting, the sarcasm… well then, your advantage might be too strong for me to look for another brand.
So What’s The Take-Away?
As many as 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. Don’t let your customers send their business to a competitor.
Dating is just like business — winning your customer is the beginning of the story. Unless you work every day to keep your customer satisfied and ensure your brand fits their needs, you’ll find yourself with a disappointing churn rate.
So surprise and delight your customer, share your customer love, track your success, go that extra mile, let your customer vent. Keep your customer coming back, again and again.
Make it impossible for someone to unsubscribe from your affection.