On one hand, all customers matter. On the other, not every customer matters to the same degree. For this reason, categorizing your customers may be a smart strategy for your business.

In nearly every area of our personal and professional lives, we know the 80-20 rule often makes sense. It’s a reminder that prioritizing things helps us give precedence to that which matters the most (i.e., where we can receive our biggest return) without sacrificing results. In customer service, this rule still applies. It doesn’t give managers or employees the right or the reason to ignore, mistreat or belittle certain customers – instead the 80-20 rule should remind managers and employees that the bar is raised for the most important customers. Standards should be set for every customer, so that every customer is treated well – but that bar needs to be raised for the best customers, so that your organization goes above and beyond for your best customers.

Customer data is critical if your business hopes to categorize its customers. So first and foremost, if you haven’t collected this data, do it now. Partner with experts and consultants to interpret the data and determine how to best use the research you took the time to complete. Collect data that is relevant, reliable and applicable – so that you aren’t rummaging through irrelevant material that won’t do you any good.

The hope is that certain trends start to surface through the research. While analyzing the data, work with others that are experts at identifying data patterns, so that you determine what your data means. Without meaning, your data means nothing because you can’t do anything.

Once you have tangible patterns identified, do your best to build a customer pyramid that categorizes customers into groups that require different levels of service. Really, the easiest way to do this is to identify the “exceptions” you want your employees to make (or not make). For example, with certain customers, you may not want your employees to make exceptions to return policies; however, with your “best” customers, you might want your employees to allow certain things that are otherwise not accepted.

With all rules, there are exceptions. And with the best customers, there should be exceptions. The process of categorizing your customers is recapped into these 5 steps:

1. Identify what matters most to your best customers,
2. Cater to these priorities by making exceptions,
3. Communicate these exceptions to your employees,
4. Empower employees to carry out the exceptions,
5. And keep this information confidential. The last thing you want to do is make your customer categories public knowledge, leaving certain customers feeling degraded and others entitled.

Categorizing customers helps you and your team members prioritize the time, resources and efforts that are invested in your customers. How do you categorize your customers?