What customers tell you they want isn’t always what they actually need. That’s just the nature of the business — especially in the highly demanding services sector.

But there’s one thing that both parties agree upon: Customers want their primary vendor to provide them with “total” service and support, and vendors want to do just that (especially if they can make it happen on a long-term, contracted basis).

These five guidelines will help service leaders ensure that their organization is as successful as it can be when promoting, selling and delivering “total” service and support to its customers: 

1. Personalize your marketing, promotional and sales approach.

While your organization may have all of the products, services and resources necessary to support multiple customer segments, most of your customers will only be interested in what you have to offer their own specific vertical. Banks, for example, don’t care what products, services and support you are providing to hospitals.

The most effective marketing and promotional messages that you can provide to customers are those that are directly relevant to their unique needs and requirements. This generally requires the availability of segment-specific marketing and promotional collateral from your organization, combined with a solid understanding of each customer segment.

Your organization may already deploy a sales and support force for specific verticals. However, in most cases, it likely supports multiple types of systems and equipment, across industry segments. As a result, the company’s greatest marketing, promotional and sales successes will likely occur in circumstances where you can show customers that you understand their specific needs and requirements. More importantly, show that you understand how customers use their systems and equipment to support day-to-day business operations.

2. If you can provide a total solution, you will become more important to your customers.

Research confirms the importance of providing customers (and prospects) with information on their “total” product, service and support solutions. Most customers do not care whether their primary vendor ultimately provides them with a total solution directly, or through qualified dealers, subcontractors or partners. They simply want a complete solution that’s managed through a single point of contact.

Once you prove to your customers that you (and, by extension, the company) can provide them with a total service and support solution, customers will learn that they can rely on your for all of their product, service and support needs. On the other hand, if they believe that you are unable or unwilling to do so, they’ll likely hire another vendor that can.

3. Even if you can provide total service and support today, you must still grow along with customers’ needs and requirements for service and support tomorrow.

The best way to ensure the likelihood of a long-term relationship with your customers is to show them that you personally understand their evolving needs — and that you are continually taking steps to grow with them. This includes attending additional training seminars or workshops, obtaining additional certifications and following new business applications in the customer’s industry.

“The best way to ensure the likelihood of a long-term relationship with your customers is to show them that you personally understand their evolving needs — and that you are continually taking steps to grow with them.” — Bill Pollock

It is also important to position yourself and the organization as willing to meet customers’ changing needs as a result of an acquisition, reorganization, business consolidation or corporate maneuvering.

4. If your customers don’t perceive you as a total services provider today, they may look elsewhere in the future.

Increasingly, customers are looking for field service organizations that can provide a broad range of value-added services and support. The most successful providers are those that provide enhanced customer service and support, including training, consulting and applications engineering. And while your organization’s field technicians may not presently have either the training or the charter to support all customers, the techs should at least have a strong understanding of what would constitute “total” service and support for those customers.

Not all of your customers require a full range of service and support today. But over time, these enhanced support options could be relevant. Service organizations (and their technicians on the ground) should educate customers about the available products and services, whether the customer specifically asks for the information or not.

The fact that your company may already have some of these enhanced services included in its portfolio — and that your service and sales teams are prepared to provide the customer with additional information immediately — will comfort customers who will know your company can provide total service and support solutions in the future.

5. Meeting customers’ needs today will make your job easier tomorrow.

Customers in highly demanding segments such as health care, financial services, government and security are constantly looking for credible providers that can act as a single — or, at least, primary — source of products, services and support. These customers also tend to be acutely aware of how difficult it is for some vendors to meet their needs.

Most believe they would benefit from finding a single organization with a primary point of contact that can provide them with the full range of products, services, and support they will require over the long haul. As a result, offering everything these customers need would represent the ultimate total product, service and support offering.