Effective Customer Service Program
How to Provide Exceptional Solutions (Not Just Service) to Your Clients

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In 2003, I moved to Little Rock, AR, and I was amazed with how helpful my new property manager was. If you haven't moved recently, you may have forgotten all the joy associated with having to arrange to shut off your utilities, phone, cable, etc. and arrange to have them hooked up at your new location. Then, you have to deal with mail forwarding, finding new service providers for all aspects of your life, and then deal with the move itself. When I made a cross-country move in 1998 from MA to TX, I had the luxury of being able to quit my job and focus solely on the move and on selling unwanted items. Now, as a solo business owner, I no longer have that luxury, and the processed caused a meltdown or two.

However, my saving grace was my property manager.. The information and resources that she had available has greatly decreased the amount of time I'd need to find this info on my own, and in some cases, she had her own contacts with some of the companies. For example, upon my decision to rent from her company and completing the paperwork, she handed me a packet of info to help with my move. Within that I found contacts for the electric, gas, telephone and water companies, along with the deposit fees required and installation charges I could expect to pay. There was a brochure from the cable company with all the options available from them, along with the pricing of their services. All of this info was in a great folder from a moving company with moving tips, in addition to having mail forwarding cards that I could complete and return to my local post office. I was talking to her about my options for a mover, and she proceeded to open the Little Rock phone directory and found the name of a moving company she could recommend, as well as ripping out a discount coupon for them from the back of the book. When I decided that I wanted to rent a PO Box as a business address for my business, I called her and discovered the branches of the USPS that are close to my new home. I can honestly say that I've never had such a great one-stop shopping experience in my entire life!

And, it didn't end there! While in her office, I noticed that she had bookcases full of videos and DVDs. The residents of all of the properties owned by the company could drop by the office and check out videos at no charge. What an amazing array of resources I had at my disposal! I truly felt I had gotten exceptional service from this company because of all the resources that my property manager had at her disposal that provided solutions to the problems I was having.

The idea of being in the solutions business came to me when I read about an article in the Arizona Republic regarding a child care facility in Ohio that offers fresh Starbuck's coffee for the parents when they drop off their children in the morning, a dry cleaner drop-off service, as well as home-cooked and healthy meals that parents can take home with them when they pick their kids up. Now, isn't that a big jump from offering child care services to offering a solution for really busy parents?

So, how can you be a solutions provider instead of a service provider in your business?

The first way is to identify ALL of the problems that your clients may have. If you're not sure what those are, ask them! Your business may not be able to help solve all of them, but you may be able to help your client with those that are most pressing. Brainstorming these may cause you to have to think outside the box and figure out how you might best serve your client. You will probably discover that you'll need to have a list of tried-and-true reliable service professionals at your disposal.

If you don't have a list of professionals at hand, there's no time like the present to create this list. If you can create strategic alliances with other businesses who can service your client base, by how much might all of your businesses profit from such an alliance? There's strength in numbers, and truly the business owners with the biggest Rolodex and the greatest number of contacts wins!

Your clients are busy -- heck, we're all busy these days. Anything you can do to save them money, time, or energy can be the center of your customer service program. Those things will engender their lifelong loyalty to you, and lifetime referrals! Start providing solutions to your clients, and they'll become your most vocal referral agents!

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