Interaction with Clients – When does business turn personal?

Recently I’ve been thinking more and more about etiquette within relationships – specifically business to client relationships.

At what point does business become personal? Or at what point should business become more personal?

Being an accountant, I ask my clients questions all day long. I ask if and when couples are planning to have a baby, how they’re business is going overall, how their credit card debt is coming along as well as how their kids are doing.

I do this for 2 reasons. Firstly, because I genuinely care and the other because it allows me to understand the client better and hence allow me to provide a much more thorough and efficient service.

But what if the tables are turned? What if a client asks you about your family or your kids? What if your invited to their son’s Bar Mitzvah or their family dinner? Or even more curious –  what if they ask you out on a date?

When does business turn personal and how far do we let it go?

Technology has also contributed to this dilemma. Online social tools such as Twitter allow you to follow your colleagues, business alliances and clients in 140 characters, multiple times a day. This allows us to have an updated account of what’s going on in the twitterers business and/or family. Do we take interest and answer to any tweet that we find of interest, whether the subject is business or personal – or do we pretend we haven’t seen it until it is a tweet specifically directed at us?

Opinions seem to be torn to these questions. Some live by the ‘business is business’ theory and always keep the relationship one sided – clients’ side. Whilst others take the opposite route and interact with their clients as much as it is welcome and invited.

It seems that this question depends on your own sense of limits and willingness to share. You may choose to share a little, a lot or none at all. As we experience certain key milestones with our clients – is it any surprise that lasting social relationships evolve?

What do you do in your business? All comments welcome!