customer serviceThe reality is that when you’re competing against big businesses, you’re going to have a hard time beating them on price. So where can small business owners like you gain a competitive edge? Two words: customer service.

Nobody likes to be treated like a number. However, that’s precisely how most big businesses tend to treat people. Take advantage of that fact by committing to providing excellent customer service at your place of business every single day. Once you do, you’ll discover that many customers will forgo saving a few bucks on price to get the personal touch that only businesses like yours can provide.

Solicit Feedback – Want to know how to better serve your customers? Ask them! Instead of avoiding customer feedback, actively solicit it. Once you do, you’ll know how to better serve your customers and they’ll feel that they are frequenting a business that actually cares about them. That’s a win-win scenario.

Empower Your Employees – As a small to midsize business owner, you’ve undoubtedly tried to be everywhere at once. The reality is that unless you’ve harnessed cloning technology, doing so is impossible. Empower your employees to handle customer complaints when you aren’t around so that they get resolved in a timely manner.

Be Social – Customer service is evolving. Gone are the days of simply having “How Can We Do Better?” comment cards for customers to fill out that you look at some time down the road. Engage with your customers in real time on social media to address customer service complaints as they happen. Remember to have thick skin as other customers, and potential customers, are watching.

Be the Face of Your Business – Consumers would rather make purchases from a business they can put a face to than from a nameless, faceless corporation. That’s good news for your business. Whenever possible, make sure you’re putting in face time with your customers by staying involved in the day-to-day operations of your business. Doing so will reassure your customers that they are getting the personal attention they won’t get from your larger competitors.

Weed Out Bad Apples – Have an employee with a bad attitude? Forget about how you can change that attitude and just change employees instead. One bad employee can tarnish your entire company’s reputation. Find people who are truly passionate about customer service and take steps to keep them in your employ as long as you can.

Embrace These Two Little Words – “I’m sorry.” Undoubtedly you’ve learned the power of these words in your personal relationships. As an entrepreneur, it’s time to embrace them in your business relationships as well. Even if you don’t feel you have anything to apologize for, simply saying “I’m sorry” is half the battle in resolving customer disputes.

Learn from Mistakes – Apologizing to customers for the mistakes inherent in running a business is a rite of passage for every new entrepreneur. The next step is to prevent those same mistakes from happening in the future. Did your business make a mistake with a customer? Turn a negative into a positive – find out what went wrong so you can both avoid duplicating that mistake and provide a better customer service experience in the future.

Kill Them with Kindness – Recognize that some people will never be happy no matter how hard you try to please them. Don’t let one unpleasant customer impact your interactions with others. Simply take a “kill them with kindness” approach to these people. That way you’ll always greet the next person who walks through the door with the smile you’d like your business to be known for.