Tough economy aside (yes, we need to stop talking about the economic problems of the last two years!), you have to see the big picture if you want long term success. I have learned this lesson the hard way in my life, but I come to appreciate that those who surround themselves with iron clad policies and procedures in how they do business can circumvent the long tail and cut off future profits and referrals.
When we do business we are interacting with human beings. People come with all sorts of background, baggage, opinions, emotions and feelings. Not a good combination for someone who wants everything to be corner stapled and signed on the dotted line.
The cliche "under promise and over-deliver" comes to mind. I work with too many people who deliver exactly what they promised and then want a trophy. Well woopty-do, you delivered what you promised. Shocking, yes, but doing your "job" is just the starting point. The thought of giving a little more does not always have to come with a new contract and a bill for additional services. Humans are impressed when you give them a little more than was expected. To make customers say "wow" you have to bend your own rules and find a way to make people feel they are special.
The most successful people I know (those who are successful financially, emotionally and spiritually) do not nickle and dime those around them. At a restaurant they split the tab down the middle, even when the other person had an extra glass of wine. In business they host their best clients for special events without tagging on additional money to their invoice (aka, provide extra value). With friends they celebrate victories no matter how small (what is important to the other person is important to them).
People who spending their time picking up pennies while stepping over $100 bills never even know they are doing it. They view every interaction as a potential for a win/lose... and they want to ensure they win. But win/win is not just a catchy theory that motivational speakers sing from the stage. It is real. Just because you give a little more to a customer without charging them, you do not lose.... you actually win -- as that person will invest more money with you over the long run and recommend your products and services to others.
If your customers feel they only exist in your world only to pay invoices, then they will eventually move on to your competition. You may have thought you won, because you got the money up front, you missed a whole pile of cash that could have been delivered to your doorstep in the future.
Look around at your business policies. Is everything you do directly tied to billing the client? Do you even know what you clients value from you company? (Those pesky humans again, each client will hold different things that will impress them).
How about you... what have you done lately for a client that gave them value and did not require them to pay for it (I do not mean emailing your newsletter!).
Have A Great Day.