Five Ways to Deliver Stellar Customer Service

Today's consumers have endless options when it comes to where to spend their money, so the savviest businesses (from retailers to doctor's offices) know they've got to set themselves apart from the pack. The most impactful and low-cost way is to deliver stellar customer service. People remember when they get it, tell others about it, and honor it with repeat business. Just as true: people don't hesitate to bail when service is poor. Below are five ways to help ensure that customers stick around:

1.  Establish a culture of customer service
From the CEO to the cashiers, everyone should know why customer service is crucial and how they're expected to deliver it. Likewise, management shouldn't forget to recognize staffers for a job well done with cash incentives, extra time off, or other perks.

2.  View everything through the customers' eyes, then 'wow' them
Managers should put themselves in their customers' shoes, from the greeting, to the comfort while at the business (Are there long lines? Do staffers anticipate their needs?), to the way complaints are resolved, and even upon exiting. Your business should seek ways to go the extra mile, whether it's using technology to eliminate lines, walking people to their destinations, or offering a drink on a hot day. Anticipating customer needs - and then exceeding them - scores points every time.

3.  Reward loyalty
Everyone loves to be appreciated, so show it with little touches; send a hand-written note to someone who's just made a big purchase, or craft auto-emails that go beyond "thank you for your business." It's all about making a connection! Businesses should also develop a loyalty program offering perks like freebies, discounts, and exclusive offers. 

4.  Treat customers with respect
Listen to them when they're expressing a need. Be accessible in multiple ways (email, phone, online chat, etc.). Respond to calls or emails within 24 hours. Never argue with a customer. Always honor commitments.

5.  Address complaints and negativity head-on
No one sets out to create unsatisfied customers, but even great companies sometimes drop the ball, so the best strategy is to address complaints directly and quickly. Accept responsibility, apologize, and offer a gesture of goodwill to preserve the relationship.

Studies show that customers are loyal not by nature, but by a feeling delighted by a brand. It costs five times as much to win a new customer as it does to keep a current one. When your business focuses on delivering a satisfying experience, you will cultivate lasting customers.