How flexible should I be? A guide for independent service providers

This week I have been preparing ongoing contracts for several of my clients.  I have been eager to tailor my offering to each one’s individual needs, to be certain to truly deliver customer satisfaction in the long run.  This activity has led me to ask myself questions.  As a service provider, what is my product?  How flexible should I be?  While my natural inclination is towards complete flexibility, I decided to pause and take stock while considering this issue in depth.  My dilemma reminded me that animals develop many adaptations.  For example, tree frogs have developed the ability to camouflage themselves in order to blend into their surroundings.

The primary purpose for tree frogs to camouflage themselves is to protect themselves from predators.  The need to adapt is a survival skill in business too.  It is an opportunity which is greatest for solopreneurs who are not restricted by the strictures of a large corporation.  It’s not duplicitous to make changes: animals blend with their surroundings in order that they might achieve their ultimate goal, to reproduce.  A business may choose to blend its offering into their clients’ needs in order to achieve their primary goal, which is, of course, customer satisfaction.

Success breeds success: a successful tree frog will breed more tree frogs; a successful firm will attract more customers by staying true to its core product.  It may choose to offer additional support services which improve the customers’ experience.  The addition of support services which go beyond the basic product has become even more significant in a trading environment which competes for highly informed customers in an online world.  This statement by marketing guru Paul Fyfield has proven to be more accurate than he’d have expected when he wrote in 1991: ”Elements of the support services component are becoming more and more important as differentiators.” (Paul Fyfield, Marketing Strategy, p.215)

Example: my client Brittens Music
Core service: selling musical instruments
Support services: repair, maintenance, spare parts, expert advice

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