Who do you trust with your customers?

Collaborations, partnerships, strategic alliances, introductions, referrals, … So many ways to develop our businesses by sharing customers. But isn’t there a big risk of sharing our valuable customers?
Everyone knows that winning customers is hard work, taking significant effort and sometimes financial investment too, so it’s not surprising if we get a bit nervous about introducing another business to our hard-won customers.
When it works, it’s great, our customer is genuinely appreciative that we’ve introduced someone who can help them and it enhances our standing in the customer’s eyes. The business we have introduced is grateful too and will hopefully make a big effort to reciprocate.
But what if it doesn’t work out – how do we protect our relationship with our customer and the other business we introduced?
About four months ago I changed my mobile phone contract, staying with the same network (I’ve been a customer of theirs for over 9 years) but switching to a different contract. Their service was great and I’m very happy with my new contract. However, since making the switch I have received at least 10 calls from other companies who claim to have been given my data by the network wanting to talk to me about changing my contract. I don’t know what their relationship is with my network, but I’m very fed up with the time wasting calls and its starting to damage how I feel about the network.
Reflecting on my experience as a customer, it seems to me that when I am introducing another business to one of my customers, there are a few things that will help protect my relationship:
Make the introduction in person wherever possible
Clarity over expectations – I’m only making an introduction that I think could be helpful. It’s for my customer and the person I’m introducing to decide if they want to work together, and I’m OK if they do or they don’t
Stay in touch – occasional checks with both parties to see how the new relationship is progressing and make sure it’s working for both of them. Just a light touch, I’m not getting involved in the relationship, just concerned to know everything is OK (and give them a chance to recognise the value of my introduction!)
I have had some disappointing experiences making introductions and giving referrals, but on balance I find it a rewarding and effective way to build business and look to learn from each experience.
Happy sharing,