Rule #1: The customer is always right.
Rule #2: If the customer is ever wrong, re-read Rule #1

Are you prepared to put your customers on the winning side of every encounter – no matter what the argument you hear in your head? You have to. It can be THE most important factor to growing your business.

Other than your pride, the cost isn’t high. Treat people kindly and with respect. Good manners will buy you more loyalty than a gazillion dollar marketing budget.

The big beefs people have about poor customer service aren’t complicated or difficult to fix. Here are the top complaints:

  • Inaccessibility
  • Uncaring attitude
  • Ignorance of the product
  • Rudeness
  • Condescension
  • Lying

Notice something missing? Most customer complaints have nothing to do with products. If a product isn’t very good, customers will return it, but they don’t usually complain bitterly about it.

Particularly with a small business, customers understand that problems come up. They understand that no one is perfect. They’re surprisingly willing to forgive.

But, the simple act of ignoring your customers’ elicits shouts of lousy service all over social media. Take a look at your own Facebook account or Twitter stream. On any given day, count how many people complain about a bad business experience. If your business isn’t mentioned out there right now, it will be. It’s time to prepare for it.

Delivering exceptional customer service is mostly common sense.

  • Do what you say you will
  • Over deliver
  • Say thank you, over and over again

If you need something more specific, here are some things to think about:

  • Commit to providing better customer service than any of your competitors.
  • Put your customer promises in writing. Post them on your website. Refer to them whenever you’re asking for a sale or requesting something from visitors.
  • Make “Contact Us” very prominent. People don’t read websites, they scan. We all instantly recognize the invitation in those two words.
  • Put your phone number on your site, and have a human take the calls. Don’t make the primary means of contacting you an email address or a contact request form. People don’t want to wait for a return phone call. They definitely don’t want to fill out a form, and wait for you to get back to them. You’re giving them time to get really irritated, and tell their friends about how irritated they are.
  • Make the route from first click to sale extremely easy. Don’t require setting up an account as part of the purchase process. Let customers buy from you on their terms. If they want to make a permanent connection to your business, they will.

Ask your customers for their opinions every time you’re in touch with them. Take their answers seriously. Adjust accordingly. If you make a policy change, send an email to the person who prompted it. When customers see their feedback in action, they’ll notice. They’ll tell their friends, too.

Do you have stories to tell? What’s the best customer service experience you’ve had personally? Have you changed your company policy as a result of it? Please share.