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No matter what business you’re in or what kind of contact you and your employees have with your customers — whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone, in an office setting or in a retail environment — good customer service skills are essential. Excellent customer service keeps your customers happy and satisfied, and a satisfied customer is a customer who is more likely to bring repeat business. Not only that, but satisfied customers tend to tell their friends and family about the good experiences they’ve had with your business. That kind of word-of-mouth advertising could make all the difference for your success.

Be Cheerful

They say that 93 percent of communication is nonverbal, so when it comes to your customer interactions, your body language and general demeanor are invaluable parts of the customer service you provide. Whether you’re speaking with the customer in person or on the phone, smile. Even if your customer can’t see you, he or she will still notice the difference in your tone of voice if you’re happy, enthusiastic and smiling.

When you interact with the customer in person, make eye contact, relax and wear an easy, natural smile. Maintaining a cheerful demeanor will make you seem approachable and friendly, will set your customer at ease, make him or her feel welcome and set a positive tone for the entire exchange.

Begin each customer interaction with a welcoming greeting. A simple “Good morning,” or “Hello, and welcome to…” followed up with a “What can I do for you today?” is enough to make your customer feel welcomed and communicate that you’re ready and willing to help. Be polite, and let the interaction unfold naturally. While you may want to eventually direct the conversation around to the product or service you’re offering, you don’t want to turn the customer off by being too pushy.

Honor Special Requests

When a customer wants something special, try to go out of your way to give it to him or her. You don’t have to make a whole new policy, just make one exception to help that customer feel valued. That customer will remember that you cared enough to make an exception for him or her when he or she asked. In the future, you’ll enjoy that customer’s loyalty and praise.

Set the Example for Your Employees

Your employees will take their customer service cues from you, the manager. Treat your employees the way you want them to treat your customers. Greet them politely and enthusiastically every day, and make them feel welcome. Be cheerful with them, as you would like them to be cheerful with your customers. Listen to them when they talk, and try to accommodate their requests and meet their needs. When you interact with your customers, model the customer service you would like to see from your employees.

Identify Yourself

Giving your customers the opportunity to learn your name is just as crucial to forming a lasting relationship as learning theirs. Make yourself visible as the manager — put your title on your name tag, and put the titles of your employees on their name tags. Remain accessible to your customers. In many businesses, the manager’s office is accessible to the public, so customers who wish to speak to the person in charge can easily do so.

Call Your Customers by Name

Calling your customers by name makes them feel important, and everyone wants to feel important. Learn your customers’ names and use them. Learn your customers’ names by looking at their credit cards, putting out a sign-in sheet or asking them to sign up for a mailing list. If all else fails simply ask their names when you introduce yourself.

Express Your Gratitude

Small gestures of gratitude let your customers know that you appreciate what they do for you and your business. In the digital age, a handwritten note delivered through the postal system or included in the customer’s package can go a long way toward showing your appreciation. Send your customers birthday and holiday cards; write congratulatory cards or notes for your customers when appropriate. Show your appreciation for your customers with small perks and benefits.

Solicit Feedback

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they think of your business and your customer service. Solicit customer feedback via a postage-paid “How Are We Doing?” card left near the register, near the exit or included in your customer’s package or statement. Keep the form short and sweet. Ask them to specify what they like, what they don’t like, how you can improve your customer service and what they would change about your business, product or service. Leave space for the customer to describe his or her most recent experience with your company.

When it comes to the overall profitability of your business, the money isn’t in attracting customers — it’s in keeping customers. The extent to which our customers are loyal to your business will depend on the quality of customer service you can offer them. The better your customer service, the more repeat business — and new business — you can expect to see.

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