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There are few truer adages than, It's who you know that counts and it unquestionably applies to consumers' success with mobility products.

As much as consumers would like entirely maintenance-free, reliable mobility products, the fact is, wheelchairs are highly-individualized extensions of our bodies, used day-in, day-out, requiring adjustment, service, and repair from time to time. And, here's the critical question relating to that fact: When you're in need of someone to address a situation with your mobility product from a simple question to a major repair who do you personally know who will assist you in the process, ideally day or night, weekday or weekend, around the clock? Can you rely on your provider, a field rep, or the manufacturer to serve you at the highest levels possible in your times of need?

If you've cultivated the right relationships, you can. And, it's a vital aspect of using a wheelchair that consumers shouldn't overlook, that their mobility purchases should be as much about relationships as they are about products. See, while every consumer wants the best technology, if it's purchased without solid support relationships in place, it's most often a poor purchase decision, where when an issue arises, that must-have product may be sitting high and dry, with no one to count on to help resolve the issue. Instead, consumers should seek a provider, field rep, or manufacturer who's going to respond immediately, person-to-person, when a mobility issue arises and that's where the power of relationship-building comes in regarding mobility products.

Building Bridges
I learned at a very young age that relationships with those supplying my mobility products and services were as important as my wheelchairs, themselves. I noted that the quality of the people who served my mobility needs ultimately dictated the quality of my mobility in its entirety, and it was my job to cultivate relationships with those who best met my needs. In particular, I recall having a fantastic provider rep when I was around the age of 12, who was there for my mobility needs seemingly to no end, whether it was stopping by my house at 7:00am or 7:00pm to keep my wheelchairs running.

However, my provider rep eventually took a position with a manufacturer, and as he left the providership, the quality of my mobility diminished. My power wheelchairs went from being serviced within a day or two, to taking a week or more. It was at that time that I realized that while quality wheelchairs were important, so were quality relationships, that the quality of my wheelchair's provider, field rep, or manufacturer was as important as my wheelchair, itself.

Building upon my experience, with my next wheelchair, I not only cultivated a relationship with a quality provider, but with a quality manufacturer, as well, where I had direct contacts at both. With my relationships in-place, I knew that assistance was a single phone call away. As the years past, I honed this approach, where I only purchased wheelchairs from providers, field reps, and manufacturers with whom I had ongoing relationships, where they valued my business and empathized with my situation, and I appreciated there personal dedication to my mobility needs. Sure, I occasionally came across seemingly cutting-edge new wheelchairs that I wanted, but if I didn't have a relationship with someone who would ultimately be involved in the ownership process with me as a sort of guarantor of service, I gladly passed, knowing the importance of long-term support in addition to the product, itself.

People First, Then Products
As a consumer, it's vital to not only consider the model of the mobility product that you wish, but also the relationships that you have with those who you will likely need to turn to for support over the life of the product that is, the provider, field rep, and manufacturer. Again, a particular model may have all that you wish in a mobility product, but if there isn't long-term support in the process that is, if you don't have a genuine relationship with those supplying the wheelchair overall reliability and service may be compromised.

During the selection process, fully assess those who you're dealing with: How quickly and thoroughly do they answer your questions? Are they truly striving to address your personal needs? Do you feel like they're putting your interests above their own? Is your contact person available beyond typical 9-to-5 business hours? Have your peers described receiving great service from them? And, if one company or person demonstrates exemplary customer service above others, place especially heavy consideration on them as an ultimate choice. I know that it may sound like a tall order to some, but such service absolutely occurs in the mobility industry and it's through aligning yourself with such companies and individuals where the value of relationship-building comes in, improving your mobility.

Never Turn an Ally Into an Adversary
Of course, as with all relationships, it's important as a consumer to maintain boundaries toward those who are truly dedicated toward assisting you, always treating them with consideration and respect. Sometimes consumers can forget that if a professional gives them, as individuals, amazing service, they're not just doing so because it's his or her job, but because he or she truly cares as a person and such dedication should be treated with common kindness, not demeaning demands. Likewise, when an exceptionally dedicated professional serves one consumer to an impressive extent, he or she is likely doing the same for many other individuals and it's a matter of courtesy not to demand unreasonable amounts of personal attention. If a consumer overwhelms the professional with countless emails, phone calls, and demands, it can harm the consumer's reputation, where no matter how dedicated a professional is, he or she can be overwhelmed by a consumer demanding inordinate amounts of attention. What's more, if a professional has gone well beyond expectations, a consumer should never, ever act negatively toward the professional. Such inappropriate consumer behavior ultimately harms the relationship, and that often self-sabotages the consumer in the end. Put simply, in the true spirit of reciprocal relationships, a consumer should offer courtesy and respect to those meeting his or her needs at a truly dedicated level.

Surely, it's natural to be impressed by a shiny new product alone, but let us not forget that it's equally important to be impressed by people and one should never discount the importance of customer service relationships during the mobility purchase and ownership process. Truly, mobility purchases should be about relationship-building at the core, and when a company or individual earns your trust by developing a relationship, don't overlook it embrace it.

Published 2/2010, Copyright 2010,