We can learn a lot about customer service from independent service providers. Whether they are small business owners, freelance contractors, or a department of one within a company, these people make their living off the service they provide. This posting is part one of a three part series where we’ll take a closer look at some successful examples to learn how service can make a difference when you are on your own.
Rama Beerfas, Lev Promotions
The market for promotional products is crowded, to say the least. Google “promotional marketing” and you’ll instantly get over a million entries. Businesses often use pens, stress toys, and other items emblazoned with their logo to promote their company, and many promotional product firms compete aggressively on price. Rama Beerfas, owner of Lev Promotions, stands apart from the competition by focusing on service rather than deep discounts.
The best customer service professionals start have a clear vision of the result they are trying to achieve for their clients. Working with Rama typically starts with a complimentary 30 minute consultation where she asks pointed questions to uncover how promotional products will fit within your overall marketing plan. Her goal is to help her clients achieve a clear return on investment (or at least a “return on objectives”) for the money they spend on branded items.
“If I sell someone a pen to be used as a promotional product to help them meet a specific goal, then that pen has to be able to convey a message, not just write one.”
Rama’s focus on helping clients achieve their goals sometimes flaunts conventional customer service wisdom, but she can be very effective. “It may be heresy, but I do not believe that the client is always right - there are those times that I provide better client service by knowing what is and is not possible within the confines of my clients' goals, budgets, and timeframe. Sometimes what they want is not the best way to achieve the ends and I would not be serving their needs if I didn't at least point out a better possible option based on the expertise I have in my field.”
Having a clear and compelling service vision is not enough. Companies large and small need to deliver what they promise. This can be challenging for an independent service provider because you can’t possibly do all the work yourself, but you don’t have any employees to lean on. Rama has carefully built a network of strategic partners to ensure she can deliver the highest level of service to her clients.
“I make sure that I partner with the best possible suppliers in my field - companies who not only can, but will help me fulfill the commitments that I make to my clients in quality, service and timeliness. I also make sure that any referrals I make to my clients for products/services that I don't provide are to people/companies that share my standards for quality and ethics.”
Results that speak for themselves
My company has worked with Rama over the past few years and she has always come through for me. On one occasion, I met with her to discuss an event to unveil a new training program for customer service leaders. My intent was to discuss some ideas for giveaway items but I came away with some innovative and cost-effective ideas to drive attendance.
Ultimately, Rama put together a very clever (and inexpensive!) direct mail campaign for me where I mailed frisbees with the phrase “Is service something you just toss around?” written on the front. She managed to get the post office to mail the flying discs with stamps applied directly to the disc itself. The result was a very “buzz-worthy” promotion that yielded an astounding 15% response rate and made my event a success.
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