RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (TheStreet) -- Saying "customers first, profits last" doesn't mean profits are last on the list of things to think about -- that would be bad business -- but that when you put customers first, your profits endure.
The customer is the reason we are in business. If your customers are happy, you get more business from them directly and through referrals, recommendations and testimonials.
Making customers happy does not mean saying yes to everything they ask for. It means treating them with respect, putting them ahead of less consequential tasks and -- when necessary -- sacrificing your time and convenience to meet their schedules, respond to emergencies and clean up messes occurring from them not calling you before they take an ill-advised step.
When you have a relationship with clients that is built on respect, trust and the belief you have their best interests at heart, you have the foundation for a long-term, highly profitable and lasting connection. When you put the client first, you may be working some strange hours (when it works for them, for instance). You may even lose money in the short term because of advice you're compelled to give in the customer's best interest. In the long run, however, that honesty, integrity and customer focus will result in more business.
If you look at it from a cost and efficiency side, working with existing clients can result in lower costs while making the next sale. They know you. You know them (hopefully). If you have a solid relationship, you not only have the potential to expand offerings to your customer, but also have the chance to get introductions to people they know, taking you from making a cold call to the beginning of a credible relationship.
Three things to do for customers to grow your business: