It’s often said that the greatest gift we can give to our clients and customers is to be of service. To me, being of service is understanding what it is that they need right now, as well as in the future – their problems and issues, frustrations and concerns – and then and only then, how can I or my business help?
Sometimes the answer to this question may even be pointing them towards a different business because you cannot provide the best service for their needs now.
“Why should I do that?” is often how people respond, “I want to sell them my products” (whatever form that may take)! But is serving the client encouraging them to buy something that isn’t what they really need now? Personally I don’t think so. Like me, I’m sure there are times when you’ve been strongly encouraged to buy a product from a particular business and whilst it might ultimately be useful to you and provide something that you or your business would benefit from, at that moment the thing that you or the business would benefit from the most is something quite different!
So how does that make you feel about the product you have bought and the business you bought it from? Very often the feeling is that you haven’t been served well and may even feel short changed. So is this going to encourage you to buy from that person again? Perhaps not.
Being of service comes before selling anything to your client; understanding their wants and needs, hopes and dreams, frustrations, concerns, worries, plans for the future, their customers and their products. And listening deeply to what they have to say – not from a perspective of what you can sell them, what of your products would be perfect, but from the perspective of understanding. And then explore with them what solutions and opportunities would be the best for them.
Then – if you have a perfect match – it would serve the client well to share that with them and talk through how it can serve them well. And conversely, if you have a product that isn’t the perfect match you can tell them what can be achieved but also what the gaps are and who could provide the perfect match or how you could fill in those gaps.
The relationship with the client is completely different when working with them in this way and you know what? Oftentimes the client will still buy from you or will refer you to other people because they have experienced you as being of service to them and their business.
Recently on one of the LinkedIn forums there was a post entitled “What is your ultimate management survival technique?” and Paul Matthews at People Alchemyhad posted:
“Think of management as a service you provide to people to help them do their jobs. The customers of your management service pay with effort and loyalty. The better service you provide, the more they will pay.”
And those few lines put a completely different perspective on being of service; it occurred to me that we don’t always think of how we can serve best those people in the businesses we run, in our teams or those who we have outsourced to for a particular service.
We think about supporting them – but to me, being of service to them changes that relationship subtly but significantly. How can I be of real service to these people? What is it they need now? If I really understand where they are now – what are their concerns, difficulties, worries, plans, hopes and dreams – then I will really understand how I can be of service to them. And again that may also be pointing them towards someone else who can provide what they need right now, knowing that what I have to give them will be of greater service in the future.
Will they react differently to this? Yes, they will feel more valued; they will feel support at a deeper level and that, as Paul says, will be paid in effort and loyalty and that effort and loyalty can only benefit the clients of the business.
So being of service can be one of the greatest gifts that we can give not only to our customers and clients, but also to the people in the business or even those outsourcers who provide a service to us.
Now there’s something to ponder on …