While technology is the root of a solution provider’s portfolio, it can also be the crutch that leads to their eventual business downfall. Most start out with a strong focus on the technical expertise and tools needed to support their initial customers and expand their operations as quickly and as far as possible.

But the limiting factor to most solution providers’ success is rarely a lack of technological prowess: it often has more to do with failing to add a little of their own “special sauce” to the equation. People enjoy working with other caring and creative people. Sure, they want IT outsource partners who can deliver quality solutions and service, especially when it’s most needed, but they also want a little compassion and individual attention.

Despite all the newfangled processes and automation introduced in the last century, the personal touch has never gone out of style. It’s no secret that the providers who meld innovative technology solutions with a good dose of personalized support win more long-term business customers. When you treat customers as if they were family or friends (better, in many cases), they tend to give you more leeway when things go wrong and hang closer when times get tough.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Of course, building those relationships and that business mindset can take time and require skills that are not always plentiful in an industry more known for its feats of engineering. Luckily, solution providers can nurture compassion and creativity in their team by committing to a few key principles, including:

  • Answer your phone: While having a “tree” of automated options may put your services business on par with the “big guys,” is that really a good thing? Prospects and customer often need answers (or assurances) quickly and a little human interaction goes a long way. With the latest VoIP technologies, every solution provider should have someone available to either handle or return a call within 5 minutes. It’s not rocket science, just the type of personalized service small business customers expect … and deserve.
  • Practice empathy: How good are you and your employees at “walking a mile” in your customers’ shoes? If you truly take the time and listen to their concerns and true business needs, it can save time and a lot of frustration. Before submitting a proposal or developing a new service, evaluate how it will help your customers address their issues and opportunities. It’s always better to start over again than to deliver something that’s of little or no value. Some flexibility in your services and support options will not only differentiate your business from the competition, but can increase upsell opportunities as these relationships deepen.

The personal touch isn’t a “cut and paste” menu of variable options that’s the same for every solution provider. It may be the way you follow up on sales calls or with support issues, or praising a best practice idea submitted by one of your customers’ employees in your newsletter. As long as those individual touches add value to the business relationship, it really doesn’t matter what’s involved. Just be sure that when you do find that “special sauce,” you adapt the recipe over time to meet the changing tastes of your market.