8 Rules for Excellent, Consistent Customer Service

Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business and can actually set you apart from your competitors. You can offer promotions and slash prices to bring in as many new customers in as you want, however, unless you can get some of those customers to come back, your business won’t be profitable for long.

Good customer service is all about bringing customers back and about sending them away happy. In fact, happy enough to pass positive feedback about your business along to others, who may then try the product or service you offer for themselves and then also become repeat customers. If you are a good salesperson, you can sell anything to anyone once. But it will be your approach to customer service that determines whether or not you will ever be able to sell that person anything else. The essence of good customer service is forming a relationship with customers that is unique and makes them want to pursue it with you.

How do you go about forming such a relationship? Here is what you need to remember: the one true secret of good customer service is that you will be judged more by what you do, than what you say.

So, if you truly want to provide consistently good customer service, all you have to do is ensure that your business consistently does these things:

1) Answer your phone.

Get call forwarding. Or an answering service. Hire staff if you need to. But make sure that someone is picking up the phone when someone calls your business. In the end, most people truly want to speak with a real person so it is actually better to have a person answering the phone rather than a recorded message.

2) Don’t make promises you cannot keep.

Reliability is another one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is no exception. If you say, “Your new bedroom furniture will be delivered on Tuesday”, make sure it is delivered on Tuesday. Otherwise, don’t promise it. The same rule applies to client appointments, deadlines, etc. Think before you give any promise because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one.

3) Listen actively to your customers.

There is nothing more exasperating than telling someone what you want or what your problem is and then discovering that that person hasn’t been paying attention and needs to have it explained again. Reduce the sales pitches and the product babble. Let your customer talk and show him/her that you are listening by making the appropriate responses, such as suggesting how to solve the problem they have just described.

4) Deal with complaints.

No one likes hearing complaints, and many of us have developed a reflex shrug, saying, “You can’t please all the people all the time”. Maybe not, but if you are able to please this one person this one time by giving the complaint your attention you will position your business to reap the benefits of great customer service.

5) Be helpful – even if there’s no immediate profit in it.

The other day I popped into a local watch shop because I had lost the small piece that clips the pieces of my watch band together. When I explained the problem, the proprietor said that he thought he might have one lying around. He found it, attached it to my watch band – and charged me nothing! Where do you think I’ll go when I need a new watch band or even a new watch? And how many people do you think I’ve told this story to?

6) Train your staff to always be helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable.

Do it yourself or hire someone to train them. Talk to them about good customer service, what it is and how to deliver it, regularly. Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so he/she never has to say, “I don’t know, but my manager will be back at…”

7) Take the extra step.

For instance, if someone walks into your store and asks you to help them find something, don’t just say, “It’s in Aisle 3”. Instead, lead the customer to the item. Then, wait and see if he has any questions about it or further needs. Whatever the extra step may be if you want to provide good customer service, be sure to go the extra step. They may not say so to you, but people notice when people make an extra effort and will tell others.

8) Throw in something extra.

Whether it’s a coupon for a future discount, additional information on how to use the product, or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. Do not think that a gesture has to be large to be effective. A local art framer that we use attaches a package of picture hangers to every picture he frames. A small thing, but so appreciated.

If you apply these eight simple rules consistently, your business will become known for its good customer service. The irony of good customer service is that over time it will bring in more new customers than promotions and price slashing ever did!


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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  1. All good points, Sandy. I particularly like number one. I hate calling a company and getting one of those automated systems that runs me through a maze of options before I ever get a human on the phone. The bottom line is that it is easier and less expensive to keep a customer than to find a replacement.

    • So true, Ken! Thanks for taking the time to read my post and always appreciate your insights.

  2. The value of good customer service cannot be ignored. Poor customer service will not only cause the loss of current customers but it can also cost you future business from word of mouth negative reviews. Conversely, good customer service not only helps with client retention while serving as a golden opportunity to increase the amount of business that account produces. While speaking to your customer you can introduce new products or services in addition to asking for referrals. I personally do not offer gifts or anything of that nature. It is my practice to offer a referral fee or a multi-placement discount or an early payment discount. If you do not answer your phone or return calls you are in a sense inviting your customers to leave you. The customer is not always right. Irate customers must be deal with professionally, however, if they become abusive or unreasonably demanding the call must end. In summation, your article offers extremely valuable advice. My only point of contention is that “cookie-cutter” solutions are not practical. Each client must be handled differently. For instance, if a client is “feeding” me on a regular basis that client will get more of my attention than a client who does not offer much promise or revenue potential. Thank you, Sandy, for unselfishly providing your vast expertise with the public.

    • I greatly appreciate your added insights to this article, Joel and I agree that different people need to be dealt with in different ways. In the end, customer service is key to keeping one’s brand strong and to bringing back customers and getting new ones from the referrals of happy current ones. Especially today with social media, your business can get ruined or at least greatly harmed in a very short time if an unhappy customer or client complains on social media.

    • Unhappy customers can as you say can ruin your business or at the very least cause it to suffer great harm. Having a strong customer service focus is the right thing to do. Some customers will never be satisfied no matter how high the level of service you provide them. With customers such as that who expect you to provide what you cannot provide or do what can’t be done force you into a corner. If this is a big account certainly you want to go over and above for them but if they can’t be placated and ultimately become a drain on the business or employee morale it may be best to let them go.

    • Yes, I agree, Joel, on occasion one might want to “weed their garden”. some people never are satisfied but the best question to ask is: “What will make you happy?” We cannot give away the store however, we might be able to give them some of what they want and then they may feel ‘vindicated”.

    • My model is to get everything straight and understood from the word go with as much as possible being put in writing. If a client wants to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game that will not work. I am a very big believer in retention which customer service can play a role in but they can also hurt retention especially if they are clock watchers or have indifferent attitudes. If all you are doing is replacing one lost customer with one new customer you are not progressing. Under that scenario, you may even be regressing as the new customer may not be as profitable as the customer you lost. There are so many variables that come into play. A good guide to go by is risk vs. reward.