What does ‘full-service’ mean?

This morning I was party to an interesting discussion – in a company’s identity materials and website, what does ‘full-service’ imply? Is it a term that’s just used way too often and without a lot of thought? Is it valuable, or just trite?

One of the people at the meeting was of the opinion that the term ‘full-service’ has been used so often that it’s often meaningless. That is, people say it but don’t necessarily do it.

In terms of techie fields, like web development and IT, saying that you’re full-service could mean many different things. Some at the table agreed that it’s better to get to the point – don’t offer a dry laundry list of everything you do (because that’s not really possible or advisable) but do boil down the most important functions you provide in a well-thought-out shortlist.

If you just say ‘full-service’ you’re putting the burden of understanding what exactly that might entail in your company’s case on the client. You’re making assumptions about what they know about your field.

On the other hand, I’m thinking something just the opposite. That if you do provide a shortlist of the services you offer – and you’re a geek and your clients are most often not – you’re not really throwing the ball in their court. If they don’t understand a word you’ve written, are they inclined to seek out your company, or are they inclined to think that you’re soaring above them with tech-speak already and go elsewhere?

I think for fields that people often find intimidating, like IT and web work, saying ‘I’m a full-service company’ implies that you can handle whatever a client needs. This may not always be the case so I think you have to really think about it before you slap a ‘full-service’ label on your brochure, but if I were a client that knew nothing about websites and how they worked and what they were good for, I’d be more inclined to go with a developer who said they were full-service rather than one that listed all of their skills one by one.

It seems to be a fine line between turning people off and offering far more than you reasonably can achieve (unless of course you’re a real company and not a freelancer!). Perhaps a short synopsis of the top three or four ways you help clients, rather than a list of the services you offer or simply saying ‘I’m full-service,’ might be the better way to go.

The reason this interested me is that I’m relaunching my website this week, and on my announcement postcard I of course had the term ‘full-service.’ I rethought that today and instead made it a sentence stating a few key points about what I offer. I’m not opposed to styling myself as full-service by any means, but this seemed more focused and I want to appear focused as I start this rebranding process.

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