As James C. Collins says in his renowned business leadership book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t,

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”

Every part of a small business is intentionally crafted until it meets the company’s vision and aligns with its values. Customer service is one area that requires even more conscious choice and deliberate actions. It is the backbone of a small business as satisfied customers accelerate growth through repeat business and providing invaluable word of mouth and social media testimonials.

There are six customer service best practices that deliver the highest levels of satisfaction and quality, which ultimately result in customer loyalty and overall business success. Consider implementing these tips into your customer service strategy for amazing results.

Create a Culture of Customer Service

Much like any company-wide initiative, small business owners need to lead by example and foster a culture of customer service. Prioritizing customer service as a key deliverable and strategic goal reinforces its importance across the business. Additionally, this alters the perception that customer service is merely a department, and instead presents it as something everyone is accountable for, regardless of title.

For micro and small businesses, where there are fewer than ten employees, this occurs naturally because everyone is wearing many hats. However, by establishing customer service as a pillar of your business success, it formalizes its significance and communicates a clear message to each employee. When every employee is on the same page with customer service protocol, a business is destined to deliver a cohesive and comprehensive customer experience.

Design Standardized Practices

Once your entire business has rallied around a culture of customer service, implementation is the next step. To ensure your customers receive a consistent experience across all platforms, provide appropriate training. This way, your employees have a reference for customer service protocol, as well as understand the tone and outlined processes for specific scenarios.

Information is power, and by supplying your team with the right tools, you’re setting your business up for customer success. When every employee operates from the same playbook, it depicts a professional persona and delivers an exceptional experience to the customer. A little preparation goes a long way for designing the best experience for your customers.

Interact Like You’re Speaking to Your Best Friend

While tone is part of your standardized practices, it is important enough to be called out on its own. Your business voice is critical to your customer service experience. Much like how your processes are standardized, your tone needs to be consistent, no matter the service agent or communication platform. This builds credibility and trust with your clients, and your tone cannot be underscored enough as a mainstay for great customer service.

To foster the right kind of dialogue with customers, make the person feel like you’re on their side, and speak to them as if you’re talking to your best friend. This doesn’t mean you need to use slang, but be conversational and warm for best customer service results. Language is powerful and small adjustments in word choice and tone establish your business as friendly and reputable.

Of equal importance is to be accountable in your tone, not merely friendly and pleasant. Realize what the business is responsible for, and acknowledge when there has been a business error. Your customers will feel understood and like they’re being heard. Customer service is all about how people feel when they leave an interaction. Integrating this blend of friendliness and accountability positions the business for stellar customer service, and loyal customers.

Always Add Value

This should be an inherent element of any customer service structure, but strive to always add value, no matter the interaction. If your business reliably offers value and useful information to its clients, they will recognize and welcome that quality. By prioritizing quality output from your employees, it positions your business as a resource and often softens resistance when customers do have issues with your products or services. Establishing your business as an industry authority that has time for thoughtful responses and helpful “how to” guides are two key ways to continually deliver value to the customer and build your clients relationships.

Be an Active Participant in the Relationship

As was previously mentioned, building relationships is a key ingredient of great customer service. To start each relationship off on the right foot, usher each customer into your community with gusto. Send a welcome email, give them a shout out on your social media channels, or go old school and send them a handwritten note with their order. These small acts of kindness are uncommon, and become memorable to clients. They feel valued and known, and the best part is these actions take minimal amounts of time.

Don’t wait for the customer to have a complaint or issue to begin your relationship. Reach out to them and take control of the relationship. That way, when there is a problem, you’re a known entity, and the customer is likely to be more forgiving or patient than if this was their first communication with your business. This means you have to follow through and close communication loops with each customer, every time. This can sound daunting, but with a little organization and delegation, your small business can successfully establish client relationships.

Communicate Proactively

This may seem intuitive, but communicate with your customers in a proactive way. Set expectations so they know what kind of service your business provides. Include your customer service hours on your website, within your email footer, in social media profiles, and anything else that is related to your small business. If you are a 24/7 business, let your clients know! If you have limited coverage, clearly outline your hours of availability. Your customers value transparency and it helps them understand when to best contact you.

Beyond hours of availability, you can provide estimated response time and include a direct way for people to contact you, either by phone, email or messaging system on your website. This removes any confusion and frustration that may be caused when customers guess at when and where to contact support agents. Additionally, by having a designated support channel, such as an email account or phone number, it helps deter customers from going on social media and blasting their complaints, concerns or issues to a huge audience.

Customer service is so much more than answering questions and solving problems. For a small business, customer service provides opportunities to increase customer loyalty, build longstanding relationships, and humanize your brand. Consider how implementing these tips could impact your business for the better, and then get to work. Your customers and bottom line will thank you!