The best customer service is often found when you are not a big customer, when the obvious financial returns to the salesperson seems to be small and uncertain. Have you ever felt as if you are getting sucked into blackhole when talking to some salespeople?

More often than not, I am dressed in very old T-shirts and faded pants when I am working, and not teaching or speaking. Whenever I go to the nearby hawker center or some food courts, I usually get great service from the stalls I frequent despite how dressed down I would be, with friendly service and sometimes, even get more food than I ordered. I am usually touched by their gestures, and of course, I would gladly return again and again to their stalls.

Sometime ago, we started to re-embrace some of our earlier offerings, that of video news releases (VNRs) to clients, and to set up microsites meant for communicating client news content in a more audio-visual manner. After all, more and more people hear and see news and content via video channels, rather than flipping through pages or even reading lines and lines of text online.

While we are familiar with on-demand video production from videography and filmmaking, the realm of “live” video streaming is something we were not previously familiar with. Therefore, we started to study the available technologies and dived right into various technologies – the fastest way to learn in a short period of time.

There are many options available in the “live” video streaming area, from proprietary streaming providers (there are a handful of very big companies), to content delivery networks (CDNs), which we are already familiar with when developing and delivering content via web channels.

Out of the proprietary streaming providers, I first tried a handful of them, but the video quality for “live” streaming was not up to my expectations versus the price I had to pay. Then I approached another proprietary streaming provider, and I received a cheerful email reply from a junior sales associate. I relayed to her my needs and hoped for a good package for a small firm like ours. I received her reply promptly, but the content of the email disappointed me. I was given the standard retail rate, which was too expensive for the functionality it provides.

Thankfully, I was able to locate two other streaming providers, one of which was a very established one, DaCast, and another, upLynk.

With upLynk, the service provides the customer with a simplified uploading process, and an intelligent encoding process that took much of the work from the customer. It is a promising service and I will very likely sign up, not just because the functionality is good for small firms like us, but the CMO Ken Brueck wrote personally to me to say that they are happy to work with small firms, and gave me some very reassuring technical advice.

With DaCast, the service works with RTMP streaming, which I needed with my wireless encoder/transmitter, and just like upLynk, offers affordable pricing that small firms like us can use. The quality of DaCast “live” streaming is great for what I need, and the site offers specific technical configuration for my equipment, and I got very good service from their technical support team as well, despite knowing I am just a tiny customer.

When we signed up with OpenDNS service, the company was empathetic to our size, and was able to also work out a preferential rate package tailored just for us. Nothing is impossible – all it takes is a listening ear and go-to action.

Right now, we can readily offer our clients the entire workflow to shoot HD footage for “live” news events and launches, as well as encoding them for on-demand viewing later, all wrapped together in custom microsites.

Small companies may be small by choice or design, or may simply be just emerging with plenty of room to grow. Any personalized customer and technical support you can provide to a small company will be imprinted in their minds and endear you as a provider to them. It is not just about the obvious financial returns, but the goodwill that you bring to the table that will carry your brand and your products/services farther and wider than you imagine, because these business owners will invariably sing praises about you to many others. Think far and wide, and endear yourself with your prospects with personalized and empathetic service, however small they may appear to be.

For service providers, when talking to a prospective customer, here are some important things to remember:

  • Be attentive and empathetic to the needs of the customer, and find internal expertise to address technical and esoteric requirements the customer needs;
  • Remember that smaller companies often have no internal expertise and would rely on you, the service provider, to provide some pointers and expertise PRIOR to the purchase;
  • Follow up promptly, and follow through the sales process to conclusion, whether the prospective customer becomes a paying customer or not;
  • Work out preferential packages and rates that cater to the exacting needs of smaller and emerging companies. Talk to senior management if possible.

Companies are looking for stars, whether they are salespeople or customer support folks. Companies are not looking for people who simply behave like blackholes.