From waiters to plastic surgeons, delivering a sensational customer experience should be a top priority – never an afterthought. As a business leader, the experience you provide to your customer has a profound ripple effect on your organization, growth, and success at large. Too many professionals focus intently on the operational and financial aspects of their business, without lending enough care to the quality of the experience they provide to customers, on a personal and human level.

Thoughtful and positive customer service is anything but a frill – it drives business growth while adding shine and luster to your reputation. Happy customers become promoters and referral-drivers. It is in your best interest to leave them raving about your business and what you do. According to a RightNow Technologies ‘Customer Experience Report,’ 86% of US adults would pay more for a better customer experience and 73% said friendly customer service made them “fall in love” with the brand.

Given that, here’s a mnemonic to guide your customer interaction:

Customers Rule. Remember to Show the Love.

CustomizationPersonalization is the new frontier of customer service and business as a whole. Although customized services are nothing new, it pays off to be intentional about the customization of each service you provide. People love when something is specifically tailored to them. Whether it is personalized feedback from an evaluation/assessment, personalized responses or simply going the extra mile to get to know your customer and their life, the more you can tailor your services to each specific client, the higher their satisfaction will be.

Receptiveness– When it comes to developing your company and improving what you offer, the best ideas won’t always originate internally. In fact, the most valuable feedback on how to improve your services and customer experience is the customer themselves! Consultants and experts are certainly valuable, but it is essential that you have a mechanism to capture customer feedback – methodically. Don’t just wait for the handful of customers who take the initiative to send suggestions and feedback. You need to systematically seek customer feedback, not only for the improvement of your business, but as a way to be attentive about how their experience with you is going. This can serve as a crucial moment to learn about your company’s shortcomings or where things are falling through the cracks. Ben Coppel, our Member Experience Manager at Advantage|ForbesBooks, advises business owners to share both a relationship survey and a transactional survey for this purpose.

  • A relationship survey, Ben says, should be shared several times a year. A relationship survey poses the question “Would you recommend us to others?” This question functions as a kind of catch-all for the nuances of the customer experience. Responses are then aggregated into what is called the Net Promoter Score, or NPS. This is an incredibly useful way to gage how the overall customer relationship is going, based on their likelihood to recommend you to a friend or family member.
  • A transactional survey can be deployed more frequently, perhaps after key milestones throughout the customer journey, to provide more in-depth feedback about the essence of their business transaction with you – a live take of where they are in the process, concerns they may have, and how they feel they have been treated.

Rectification – By virtue of being human, you will make mistakes – as will your team. While you should absolutely strive toward being an error-free organization, this will never be more than an ideal. Mistakes and/or dissatisfied customers are an inevitability. The key is to have a plan by which you address errors and take measures to zealously rectify them. One thing many business owners overlook is the importance of expressing sympathy and objective concern over the customer’s negative experience. Appearing exasperated is to be avoided at all costs! If you are successful in correcting the error, you show the customer that you are attentive to their needs, fully demonstrating that their experience matters to you. These kinds of customers go on to become fans and promoters. Don’t drag your feet about rectification (correcting mistakes of any kind). Don’t argue or make a fuss about logistics, or where fault lies. When mistakes occur and things inevitably fall through the cracks – exercise the mantra: Rectify, Rectify, Rectify. No ifs, ands, or buts. Even where the mistake is not your company’s fault. Remember – mistakes and bad experiences are a golden opportunity to show your customer service chops!

SpeedWe can’t stress enough the importance of speed for a winning customer experience. Speed should factor into both your services and your responses to customer comments, questions, and concerns. Speed clearly demonstrates to the customer that they are a priority to you. You wouldn’t want a customer to be inconsiderate with your time – missing appointments, being indecisive about hiring you, not making timely payments. Similarly, never be inconsiderate with theirs. It contributes to your overall image as a company if you are highly responsive to emails, voicemails, comments, and other inquiries. Depending on the size and scope of your business – you can either commit yourself, an assistant, or a dedicated customer service representative to answering all customer inquiries in a timely fashion. The top 100 retailers have an average email response time of 17 hours, strive for an even shorter time!

LongevityIn almost everything you do in your life – business owner or not – mindset is key. A ‘longevity mindset’ means that you approach every interaction with customers with longevity in mind. What can you do to satisfy them now and ensure they’ll come back in the future? Implying that something was their fault (even if it was) does not promote longevity. You want – no, actually, you need your customers to continue to do business with you.

By making every consumer interaction positive, you’re ensuring your business with a customer for life. Economist Arthur Sheldon put it most succinctly: “He profits most who serves best.”