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It’s all about service today: customer service, service contracts, service
guarantees. If you believe your business has nowhere else to go to improve
service, think again.

In a market where your products are a commodity or are not tied to your
brand, your service sets you apart. There are three key rules to success when
it comes to offering service:

Be the Best
The power of excellent customer service cannot be overstated. It is not
just enough to have a live body answer the phone; your response time to
customer concerns and technical issues must exceed expectations. Prompt,
courteous and sincere responses can make the difference between a customer
choosing to continue to grow business with you versus your competition.

Good customer service saves your business money. It can cost three times as
much to develop a new customer compared with the expenses of maintaining your
current customer base.

Keep It Simple
When it comes to service contracts, less is more. Keep your service offerings
clear and concise. Do not overwhelm a customer with complicated offerings and
sliding fee scales. A la carte service offerings are fine, but price them in a
way that a customer can understand.

Consider three tiers to your service contracts: good, better and best. This
allows customers to purchase the plan they can afford today and increase their
coverage as their business with you grows and as their budget allows. As a
customer hits a rough economic patch, it also allows them to downgrade their
service contract with you opposed to canceling altogether.

Guarantee Success
Anyone can create a guarantee, but real peace of mind comes when a customer
knows the person offering the services. People choose to do business with
people they know and trust. Your company’s brand is tied to your service
offerings. A guarantee on response times, customer satisfaction and extension
of manufacturer warranties can clearly differentiate your business from your
competitors’. Money is tight and getting to incremental spends is tough right
now. Offering a guarantee on price savings, service offerings and business
process improvements can free up some of those difficult-to-find IT dollars.

Your company’s service offerings are more than just monthly contracts and
maintenance agreements; they are an extension of your brand. Loyal customers
are built through relationships based on trust and success. View your service
offerings as more important than the products you represent, and the loyalty
will be to your company and your customer will grow vendor-neutral. The most
successful solution providers are offering true business solutions that
translate to service growth for their companies.

Kathleen Martin is special projects coordinator at Channel Insider.