Every company in its early stages wants to inevitably be the “yes” man for their customers. If a graphic design company has a customer with a technical need, often times the thought process of the company (especially newly-formed companies) is “Hey, we can manage that, let’s offer it to our customer!” This seems like a logical thought, at first. I mean, the graphic design company certainly has the capabilities and manpower needed to perform such a task. But is this, in fact, a logical thought? Or is it a bad thing? It’s neither.

The idea of wanting to provide a solution for every problem that your customer brings to your doorstep isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A professional company should want to help their customers in any way they can, in any situation, when the need arises. However, this doesn’t mean that the company should display themselves as an expert in every possible field, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the company should start advertising those newly-discovered capabilities as their services. Why? Because this mindset is primarily beneficial to the company—not the customer. To provide the best solution to your customer, it’s often a better idea to hand them off to someone else.

Giving customers away will keep them

The idea of giving away a customer to another company seems insane, yes. But when you keep your eyes focused on the customer’s best interest, it makes perfect sense. Your company can still be your customer’s “yes” man without compromising quality or their pre-established relationship by simply networking with other companies and referring work to them. This doesn’t mean giving your customers to your competition, but rather, giving your customer to another company that provides the specific service that your customer is looking for.

When a company has an established network of professionals and has a customer whose needs can be met by the primary service of another professional, it is in everyone’s best interest for the company to refer the customer to the other company. The benefits of doing so are endless, but the key benefits include:

The customer gets the best service. A mobile developer can offer mobile development services to your customer at a greater level than a graphic designer could. This is clear-cut and obvious. By establishing communication with a mobile developer prior to making the referral, you can assure your customer that the referred company does great work and that you have worked together in the past.
Your company gets a heightened sense of trust, professionalism and transparency. By showing your customers that you know your limitations and are more concerned with ensuring they get the best services available, you become an even better company in their mind.

Only refer trusted companies!

When referring your customer to another company, you want to pass along your deepest recommendation and assurance that the process can be kept simple. When the customer knows that the company you’re referring them to is a trusted source and the companies are aware of each other, it makes the transition easier. You could even contact the other company on the customer’s behalf to initiate the conversation. The idea isn’t simply referring your customers to the first result on Google, which benefits no one. You will be passing your reputation onto the recommendation, so I highly suggest meeting with the owner in-person when possible. Establish trust and make it real. No matter how great of a job you’ve done for a customer in the past, referring a nightmare to your customer will not reflect very well on you.

How you work the relationship between you and your “partners” is up to you. However, I would generally advise against becoming a middle-man through the process. Relaying information and playing that “middle-man” wastes precious time and can create more confusion that it is worth. Let your partner company take the reigns and provide the best service for the mutual customer. The customer will think much more of both companies for keeping their best interest in mind. If your partner company wants to give you a little kick-back (commission) for the referral, that’s between you and them.

Keeping the customer as your focus

At the end of the day, every business is about the customer. Contrary to the popular saying that “the customer is always right,” I firmly believe the opposite. Just as we, as service providers, should avoid wearing too many hats, the customer should as well. A customer comes to you for your expertise. By giving them too much say in how your service is finished, it dilutes your professionalism and decreases trust. This is an entirely separate topic altogether, though. 🙂

The more anyone (customers and companies alike) tries to diversify and become a jack-of-all-trades, the less effective they become at providing a single service. Not to mention the growing size of your competition. If you keep your customer’s best interest in mind, referring companies will come naturally. The trick is to go ahead and establish the necessary connections with other trusted professionals.

By keeping your customer at the center of your focus, you will provide better specific services, grow a strong, professional network, and ensure that you maintain the customer’s trust for years to come. Do not fall into the trap of being everything for everyone.