For small businesses, establishing sincere one-on-one relationships with customers is the difference between being in business and not. If you’re like many other business owners you struggle with how to create sincerity while you both know the purpose of your relationship is to exchange money.

You can get past the transactional nature of your relationship by making an instant emotional connection with someone. It starts with words, but you prove yourself with deeds.

Maybe you already have the basics in place. You know to greet everyone who comes in your door. Your website is easy to understand and use. You have a customer support helpline that’s answered by a human being. You’re ahead of 90% of all the other businesses out there, but most people won’t be swayed to buy from you, and only you, if you don’t do more to show you care.

  • Give more attention to customer service than you do to making a sale.
  • Be upfront about your prices. Don’t “forget” to mention things like tax, shipping, design or set up.
  • Be clear about exemptions and special requirements. Don’t whisper them in a rush at the end of your offer.
  • If you don’t have something they’re looking for, point out another business that might.
  • If you don’t know an answer, admit it. Get back to them with one as soon as you can.
  • Make sure all your policies can be understood by a 6th grader.
  • State any regulatory stuff in both the required jargon and understandable language.
  • Communicate any change in plans immediately. Don’t make customers call you to ask.
  • Include a personal message in those packages that are sent through the mail. A story, a joke, a picture, a gift or a handwritten thanks captures a lot of attention, and they’ll talk about it.
  • Give an unexpected gift with every purchase. (But, don’t make it something that means only free advertising for you.) It doesn’t have to be expensive, just sincere.
  • Ask customers for their ideas. Give them serious consideration. Let them know that you did.
  • Have a public place for customers to post their feedback. They’ll respect your willingness to openly take some hits. Responses will let them know you’re paying attention.
  • Apologize and take full responsibility for mistakes. If it affects more than a couple of your customers, do it publicly.
  • Ask customers for their opinions on products, your company, your competitors and anything else you might need to hear from the perspective on the other side of the transaction.

So few businesses go to much length to show their customers that they mean more to them than the money they spend. If you put even the smallest effort into showing people they are the only important one in the conversation, they won’t take their business anywhere else.

Do you have a story to tell of exceptional customer service? Did it inspire you to make changes at your company? Please share.