10 action-focused tips on how to improve customer service make all the difference to customers and those who serve them.

Top ways to improve customer serviceThe quality of your customer service is directly related to your level of customer satisfaction, which — of course — is ultimately tied to your profits and business success. Why improve customer service? Happy customers not only become repeat buyers, they foster business growth via word-of-mouth marketing – the most powerful advertising in the world.

There’s much talk about theory and software to track customers and do business, but when it comes down to it, customer really want one think: service action.

10 Tips to improve customer service

These 10 things to improve customer service make a difference both to your customers and the people who serve them. Because ultimately, great service only happens when those serving know how to be great. If you want to maximize your business success, start with the following 10 ideas to improve customer service into your business today.

1. Train “intake” staff

First impressions count – big time – so it’s important to train anyone who will come into contact with new (and established) customers to bring them into your company culture right away. My son and I recently visited our first Smashburger, and when we entered the employee came out from behind the register and introduced us to the chain’s philosophy behind their food, walked us through the menu and ordering process, and asked if there was anything else he could do to help. He was friendly, enthusiastic, and seemed genuinely passionate about making our experience awesome – not what we’d come to expect from a fast food chain, but definitely one of the major reasons we’ll go back. Train your staff to greet customers with that kind of enthusiasm, and they’ll be back, too.

2. Actually pick up the phone to build the customer relationship

Follow up with customers by making a quick phone call. Personally reaching out to make sure your customers are absolutely thrilled with your service can be a major difference-maker, and it can also reveal opportunities to provide even better customer service. And, if possible, meet customers face-to-face. Doing this will improve customer service to the level that the relationship goes beyond just getting something, but build customer loyalty.

3. Improve customer service by being more flexible

Be flexible in accommodating your customers. That doesn’t mean you should succumb to every demand – and jeopardize profits – but it does mean you should be willing to adapt to keep customers happy.

A few years ago, one of my best clients was struggling to pay invoices. He was in a heavy-growth period and opening several stores, and the issue was as much a time limitation as it was a financial limitation. Rather than lose the client, I offered a retainer agreement for an extended period in return for a reduced rate and upfront monthly payments. The deal was attractive to my client, who could add my static fee to his monthly budget, and he ultimately hurdled past his growing pains to build one of the most successful firms in his industry. And, of course, my company grew along with his.

4. Under promise, over deliver to improve customer service perception

Some companies make the mistake of promising customers the moon. Only promise what you can deliver, and keep that to the basics. Then, over deliver. You’ll give your customers more than they expected. That “wow” factor will generate outstanding word-of-mouth advertising.

5. When in doubt, ask the customer

One of the easiest ways to improve customer service is to go straight to the source. Ask your customers how you can improve. Then, evaluate your responses to determine what fits and how you can incorporate them into your business operations.

6. Involve employees in planning the customer experience

Your employees are on the front lines, so they know when customers are happy – and when they’re frustrated. Ask employees for suggestions. Reward those ideas that are implemented; and for those that are not, speak individually to each employee to tell them why you decided against their suggestion and encourage them to continue to come up with great ideas. Giving your employees a sense of ownership will improve customer service dramatically.

Employees want to be part of something that matters. Bring them in and let them participate in the process of defining ways to improve customer service. Get their input on the pain points that are holding back your relationship with customers. Allow them to help build the program that will improve customer service and they’ll be more engaged in the process of serving customers.

7. Surprise customers with the little things

An unexpected greeting card or postcard for birthdays, anniversaries or “just because” can be just the thing to make your customers feel special. Add in a special freebie, gift or discount coupon to let customers know how much you value them.

8. Reward employees for going the extra mile

When an employee does an outstanding job handling a customer, reward that employee with a prize: a paid day off, a gas card, whatever. If your entire team does a great job, reward everyone. That type of incentive will spark even greater customer service.

9. Develop customer-specific solutions

Instead of trying to get customers to conform to your product or service, make your product or service conform to your customers. Find out what they need first, then figure out how to serve each customer’s specific needs. When you’re committed to making your customers’ lives better and easier, they’ll be loyal.

10. Admit mistakes – and make them right

Everyone makes mistakes, and at some point you’re going to make a mistake. Maybe you forgot to fulfill an order, or you sent a typo to the online printing company. When this happens, don’t make excuses or pass blame – not even on to your own employees. Admit your mistakes, apologize for them and make them right. Your customers will respect you for it, and your willingness to make it right will foster trust.

Can you think of one more? How would YOU improve customer service today?