In the recent months while out shopping, dining or having a service performed, I was surprised at the lack of customer service that was provided.  In some instances it was so bad that it made me not want to visit that place again.

Here’s some simple yet POWERFUL ideas on how to improve your customer service.  Nothing can do more for a business than having “happy customers”.

*  Always acknowledge a customer once they arrive, even if you are waiting on another.  You can simple say Good Morning or Afternoon and tell them you will be with them in a few minutes.  I don’t know how many times I walk into a place and no one looks up to greet or acknowledge me and sometimes I could be waiting 5 mins or longer.  Also, be polite to a customer using the words you’re welcome, please, and thank you.  Be polite even if they are being irate with you.  Always apologize to your customers should you make a mistake and make it up to them in a big way.

*  Stay in contact with customers on a regular basis.  Offer them a free e-zine subscription (if you have one).  Ask them if they want to be updated by e-mail when you make changes to your Web site.  After every sale, follow-up with the customer to see if they are satisfied with their purchase as well as following up with them every few months to see if you are able to assist them with anything else.

*  Resolve your customer complaints quickly and successfully.  Answer all email and phone calls within an hour.  If possible, you the owner of the business, personally take care of their problem.  This will show your customers you really care about them.

*  Make it easy for your customers to contact you.  Offer as many contact methods as possible.  Allow customers to contact you by e-mail.  Hyperlink your e-mail address so customers won’t have to type it.  Offer toll-free numbers for phone and fax contacts.  I offer my customers my cell phone number so I am accessible at all times for them.

*  Build strong relationships with your customers.  Invite them to company meetings, luncheons, workshops or seminars.  Create special events for your customers like parties, barbecue’s, dances, etc.  This will make them feel important when you include them in regular business operations and special events.

*  Give your customers more than they expect.  Send thank you gifts to lifetime customers.  E-mail them online greeting cards on holidays or birthdays.   Or better yet, send them a personal note in a card.

*  Offer your customers some kind of a reward program based on what they spend.  I get $10 spending coupons from JC Penney and TJ Maxx once I have purchased a certain amount in their stores.  This creates a reason to go back and shop there.

*  If you have employees, make sure they know and use your customer service policy.  Give your employees bonuses or incentives to practice excellent customer service.  Tell employees to be flexible with each individual customer, each one has different concerns, needs and wants.

*  Make it easy for your customers to navigate on your web site.  Have a “FAQ” page on your site to explain anything that might confuse your customers.  Ask them to complete an electronic survey to find out how to make your web site more customer friendly.

*  Create a customer focus group.  Invite ten to twenty of your most loyal customers to meet regularly.  They will give you ideas and input on how to improve your customer service.  You could pay them, take them out to lunch or dinner or give them free products and/or services.