Maximizing Service to Your Existing Client Base

February 3, 2007

After consulting with a new customer, do you walk away knowing a lot different ways you can help, but proceed to act only on their initial request? Do you hesitate to offer additional services simply because you don't know where to start?

Being in the service business myself, I know what it's like to get a request for a new brochure when what the client truly needs is a new brochure, a better identity, stronger creative and a more effective website. I was satisfied fulfilling my client's immediate requests until I realized that fulfilling requests did not necessarily mean I was fulfilling my clients' actual needs.

Your clients aren't supposed to be the experts – you are. By creating an upselling system (and you can think of it however you'd like: call it a "service program" or a "service plan" if you'd prefer), you establish yourself as an expert while helping fulfill the true needs of your clients as completely as possible and maximizing your revenue in the process.

1. Make a List of Your Services

Begin by making a list of the key services you have to offer. For example, accounting professionals offer quarterly financial reviews, annual tax filing, 1099 distribution management, QuickBooks training, and more. Graphic designers can create logos, business cards, brochures, and websites – among other things, of course.

Public speaking and lecturing, albeit frightening to many, is a service that practically any business can offer. As long as you exist to provide a benefit to others, there's value to be found in what you have to say. Is it possible to add training or seminars to the list of services you can provide?

If you don't offer multiple services right now, seek new ways to develop your business. Strive to expand by strengthening your core services rather than by diversifying. If you mow lawns, start fertilizing them, too. If you write brochures for a living, you're probably the best person around to optimize your client's web site content.

2. Develop a Service Plan

Once you know what specific services you have to offer, start developing them into a comprehensive service plan. How do your various services relate to each other? How can one service add value to another? How can additional services performed now save money for your clients over the long haul?

Describe each service in detail. Make a list of reasons why the service is beneficial to your client. Make another list of the detrimental effects of not completing the service. Finally, wrap it all together in a concise summary that you can use to educate new customers.

Once each of your services has been summarized, the goal is to tie them all together in succession – first step, second step, etc. – and eventually produce a multi-level service plan aimed at achieving the ideal results for all of your existing clients. By illustrating the ideal situation, you'll naturally establish a goal for your clients to achieve.

3. Offer To Perform a Free Audit

When you take your car in for an oil change, the mechanic looks over the entire vehicle to make sure everything is running smoothly. As a customer, you appreciate this basic service, and you often pay more than what you had been planning to spend in order to get any additional problems fixed while your car is in the shop. Why then doesn't every service business offer to "check things out" for its customers?

By contacting you, a client has already acknowledged that they have an immediate need for your services. By offering to do a free audit of their situation, you open the door to a stronger relationship and a greater opportunity for both parties. For example, a company looking for a new website may have no idea how important a strong corporate identity is. A diligent assessment of their situation may be all it takes to, say, triple the size of your contract.

The audit itself is fairly easy. Simply compare what they already have against the list of services you're able to offer them. Could they benefit from those additional services you offer? Compile this information, grade their overall performance, and present the client with an honest assessment of both what they're already doing very well and what they could be doing better.

4. Provide Options

Once you have developed a valuable service plan and customized it for your client's situation, chances are the client will see the value in the additional services you have to offer. This is not to say, of course, that they'll have the budget to accommodate your full proposal. Providing multiple options at this point will improve your chances for a successful contract upgrade.

For the sake of example, let's suppose there are 10 key components to your service plan. You should present the client with three basic entry points – 100% completion, 50% completion, 10% completion.

The 100% package should feature all 10 of your services. It's the best of everything you have to offer, and it should work as a comprehensive solution to your client's current issues or needs. It is, of course, very expensive – but it's well worth it.

The 50% package should be the best service package you can offer for half the price of the first plan. It should either feature the first 5 of your 10 services or the most important 5 of your 10 services.

Finally, the 10% package is a single next step for your client to consider. By providing a clear next step, you are reiterating that there is an end goal to be achieved or an ideal situation to be reached. If the client doesn't upgrade with you today, this will help to ensure that they at least walk away with an idea of what to do in the future.

5. Refer Other Businesses

The final item to consider when developing your service program is the possible inclusion of your friends and business associates in the plan. Just because you are personally unable to offer a particular additional service that could benefit your client is no reason to not upsell your client into additional services. If you see gaps in your plan that can be strengthened with adjacent services, seek out other good service providers to fill them. By referring more business to others, you will see your own business flourish through the referrals you receive in kind. You'll also earn respect and create good faith that will pay great dividends in the future.