The importance of the relationships between small businesses and their service providers can’t be overstated. Without the resources of a large business, small businesses often benefit from outsourcing everything from marketing to recruiting to IT. Even if you’re not a fan of outsourcing, you still need to partner with service providers for things like Wi-Fi and networking.
So how do you decide which service providers are the best fits for your small business? Here are some things to look for.
Their Portfolio Meets All Your Needs
This may be stating the obvious, but the service provider you choose to partner with should meet all of your needs. Your marketing agency should be able to execute on the entirety of your marketing strategy. The company providing your Wi-Fi should be able to offer you next-gen Wi-Fi with unfaltering connectivity and airtight security. For example, Plume WorkPass offers small businesses adaptive Wi-Fi, AI security, and customer insights to help organize your business for growth.
It can sometimes be tempting to chase a good deal and settle for something less than what you desire or a bundle that isn’t personalized to your needs. Often, though, doing so can lead to problems down the road that could have been avoided.
They’re Customer Focused
The companies providing you with essential services should be available and responsive should you need something from them. If customer support is slow or agents are rude, it’s going to lead to major headaches in the future, even if the provider’s offerings are great.
Don’t stop looking until you find a service provider with friendly representatives, dedicated support, and several channels for lodging tickets or complaints. The last thing your business needs is a partner that doesn’t adequately support you.
They Have a Broad Range of Offerings
As mentioned earlier, a service provider needs to meet all your needs, not just some of them. You’re more likely to find this when working with a provider who has a broad portfolio of services available. This not only helps ensure they can satisfy all your requirements, but it also demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of their industry.
A broad portfolio suggests the possibility of a scalable, long-term relationship as well. Your small business is going to grow and evolve over the years. Service offerings that make sense for you now probably won’t make sense in five years. A service provider that can update their offerings as your company changes is invaluable.
They’ll Give You Proactive Support
It’s important for a service provider to respond as soon as a problem arises. What’s even more valuable, though, is a service provider who can prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
What this looks like will be different depending on what kind of service provider you’re dealing with. A website administrator could monitor traffic and usage on your site to determine which pages aren’t getting enough views. Your Wi-Fi provider might offer technology that lets you monitor usage data to see where customers and employees spend their time. Whatever proactive support may look like, the ideal provider will tell you how you’re performing so you can take steps to perform even better.
They’re a Partner in Your Success
A good IT provider is more than a technician, and a good accounting service is more than a team of number crunchers. Service providers should act as consultants and partners in your success.
In practice, this means providing the proactive support mentioned earlier. Beyond that, though, it means taking the time to learn about your business strategy and overall goals. A great provider will then take that information about your business into account when deciding how to best serve you. They should understand exactly what sets your company apart and suggest ways they can meet your unique needs.
They Get Positive Reviews and Testimonials From Clients
Of course, any service provider can say they do all of the above. But how do you know whether they’ll really deliver?
One good way is to seek out reviews from current and past clients. Look online for what customers had to say about the provider and note how (or whether) they responded to any negative reviews. Also look for testimonials on the provider’s website and, if possible, contact the person who provided them to verify their accuracy.
In addition, make sure you’re paying attention to the services people are talking about. If all the good reviews are discussing offerings that aren’t relevant to your business, the provider may not be the best fit.
Their Contract Matches Their Sales Pitch
It’s not uncommon for salespeople to oversell what a provider can actually do for you. To the extent possible, get concrete details about what is being offered early in the process. Don’t hesitate to ask the hard questions about the exact number of hours or quantity of deliverables a provider is promising.
When the contract, statement of work, or service-level agreement arrives on your desk, give it a close read. You’ll want to confirm you really are getting what the sales rep promised. If there are any discrepancies, that may be a red flag.
Finally, you’ll know a service provider is superior if they’re as dedicated to growth and innovation as you are. Providers that offer the same basic services that everyone else does aren’t worth your time. Instead, look for providers that offer cutting-edge, forward-thinking approaches or technologies. This indicates that they’re a step above the competition and have an innovation mindset that could help your company grow.
Evidence of an innovation mindset will vary by provider. It could be a marketing partner’s unique approach to social media, a training platform’s advanced knowledge library, or a Wi-Fi provider’s cutting-edge technology.
Choosing service providers is a big task for any small business owner. But if you’re thoughtful and strategic, you can establish mutually beneficial partnerships that will yield dividends as your business grows. Use these criteria as a starting point to make your search for the ideal service providers a successful one.