Take a look around – you are living in an extremely competitive world full of passionate bootstrapped startups, resource-stacked corporate giants, and energetic entrepreneurs. The competition is steep to say the least.  Despite these competitive challenges, every business has something that makes it unique and in order to succeed, it’s important to highlight those specific attributes. Customer service is one area where great businesses can and do differentiate themselves. As your business’s single, most visible interaction with the customer, it’s a logical place to invest your time and money.

Despite being a regular topic of conversation within the business community, most customer service efforts are analyzed and assessed for months before being put into practice. As a result, the typical customer experience enhancement project comes to fruition a day late and a dollar short. If you’re serious about enhancing your customers’ experience, here are four things you can start doing this week.

Come Up with a Better Way to Answer Your Phone

The majority of businesses choose to answer the phone with this classic script: “Thank you for calling (your company name)…  My name is Sue, how can I help you?”  Sure, there is a bit of variation each time, but it’s the same general theme. Don’t be that company. Spice things up! Make the way you answer your phone so interesting, engaging, and remarkable that it catches people off guard and makes them smile — or even better — laugh!

For example, ask callers if they would like any of the following: a “word of the day” with definition, the title of the best book you’ve read this month, the score from last night’s big game, or if they’d rather just be connected to the person they’re trying to reach. You’d be surprised how many people will be caught off guard and will want to explore a non-traditional conversation. Make it short, sweet, and relevant.  Once they select an option, tell them the answer and then offer to address the reason they called.

Stop That B.S. Policy

Most businesses have a flaw. The key is keeping that flaw small and out of site. When you have a policy that your customers complain about, you need to find a way to alter it and fix the issue asap. Most companies have these “BS” policies and over time, learn to live with them. Many even grow to accept them. Stop it. Today. Come up with a better way to handle the situation (that isn’t tied to a “policy”) and tell everyone on your team that the old way of doing things stops today — and then track whether anyone continues to do it.  If they do it, make them put $5 in the “policy” jar (kind of like the “swear jar” when you were a kid, but this time you’re fined for saying “but it’s company policy that…”). At the end of the month, donate the money to a local charity. Start telling your customers the good news about the revocation of the old policy as soon as possible.

Come Up with a Better Voicemail Message

Stay away from the usual tired script, “You’ve reached (your name) – I’m unable to come to the phone right now, but if you’d be kind enough to leave your name, number, and the time you called, I’ll be happy to get back to you as soon as possible. Have a good day!”  Your company, or your role at your company, is based around you. Great businesses sell personalities and character, not products. Make your voicemail more interesting and be sure to capture your personality. If you like music, play a quick snippet of a piece and ask callers to guess the song. The first person to guess gets a prize and then you change the message to a new a song. If you like a particular sports team, share that you are still out celebrating their most recent win and as a result, can’t take their call. If you’re getting nervous or saying, “But management requires me to leave a standard voicemail,” I’d encourage you to adopt the maxim, it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. The objective is to create a message that is interesting enough that it gets your customers talking – something that every manager/executive wants.

Blow Their Mind

Have you ever been to a networking event, met someone and then when they emailed you later, had no idea who they were? If so, it’s probably not because you have a bad memory, it was most likely because they didn’t leave an impact. Every day, in every customer interaction, ask yourself, what additional thing could I do to blow their mind. Throw in a dozen free sample products instead of the usual two or three.  Have pet treats at your checkout counter so you can ask if they have a pet in the car, and if they do offer them “one for the road.”  Offer to carry their purchases/bags to the car – even if you don’t normally offer that service.  Each day, strive to make a least one customer say, “wow, I wasn’t expecting that!”

Creating remarkable customer experiences is easier than you think.  It just requires a little more thought, creativity, and personality than most organizations are willing to invest.  If you put in the time and focus on doing things differently, the return on your investment will be increased sales, better customer relationships, and all the referral business you can handle.

If you want to learn more about how to enhance your customers’ experience, check out next week’s Turn Customers Into Fans in the First 100 Days course on creativeLIVE.