This is a big topic, given that paying customers come in all shapes, sizes and tones. Having said that, customers as a group fall into four sub-groups, not all the same size:
Group 1 is the largest. These are the customers who you don't normally see. They are the dutiful, quiet, understanding, co-operative customers who just get on with it and normally go along with whatever you are doing. It's good to keep in touch with them but you won't normally have many direct dealings with them. Because they are the lest visible group, they are also neglected the most - we’ll come back to this in a moment, as it is key to expanding your business.
Group 2 is the next largest. These are customers who fall into the above category but occasionally come to see you with a specific request or on a particular issue. They are normally sensible and whatever it is they need can usually be accommodated without too much trouble.
Group 3 is the next largest, though not a very large group - perhaps 10% of the total customer body. These people you will see often. They are frequently unhappy or troublesome and whenever you think you have dealt with their concerns they will be back with another, or perhaps even the same one. They require time, turn up unexpectedly, must be listened to expertly, and generate quite a bit of ‘noise’ in your business. Because you see them more often, you can be deluded into thinking that they are a much larger group than they are.
Group 4 is the last and smallest group, consisting of maybe one or two customers in your whole database. They will be a serious problem in that their issues tend not to resolve but to get worse. Sometimes they can become threats to your business in some way, ranging from noisily threatening to withdraw their custom to actually calling on solicitors or the like.
The good news is that Group 4 customers are rare. You’ll have a few who could potentially escalate into this kind of customer, but most of your time will be taken up with Group 3 - the noisy, repeating visitors whose real solution is probably not related to your business at all.
These kinds of ratios are not unique to one business of course. Any business or enterprise is going to experience bodies of customers who behave in this way, Groups 1 to 4. Your job in terms of customer liaison is to make sure you are delivering abundantly to all four groups, while not letting Groups 3 or 4 monopolise your attention or time. Or - worse in a way - leading you to believe that all parents belong in Group 3 or 4, which will lead you down a deceptive garden path.
Most customers are good, kind, cooperative and aligned with the aims of your business. They are also, because of this, something else:
They are your most likely source of repeat business.
Because many businesses get tied up in dealing with Group 3, or in trying to acquire new customers, they fail to take advantage of their biggest fans: the large Group 1 customers who are happy with what you have provided and will probably purchase more, it it is at all feasible.
How do you manage them? By keeping in touch, that’s all. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) bombard them with sales material - simply provide them with a channel through which they cans what you are doing and what is available. If they are Group 1 customers, they will probably, at some point down the line, visit you again.
Just don’t lose sight of them in the kerfuffle generated by the others.