A Small Idea to Turn To When Things Are Tough—#3 of 3

The third post in our series for small business survival during this economy focuses on an important part of your business – customer service. This part of a business is often overlooked, but it is relatively easy to spruce up your customer service practices and practically guarantees referral and repeat business. (For previous posts, see the first one here and the second one here.)

Customer service is one of those terms slapped on the end of lectures about succeeding in business. Yet, it is really a fine-tuned machine that can work to your benefit. A few tips on customer service that I've learned when times are tough.

1. How is your customer service? If you've never really thought about it (many small businesses are really small, especially b2b industries and service businesses; a single person even!) and the idea of customer service makes you want to run the other way—don't! It's as simple as a pleasant voice answering your phone (can you be pleasant?) to quick replies to emails to understanding when a customer or client is delayed or having problems on their end, even when it inconveniences your schedule.

2. Thank you goes a long way in the business world. Did a client refer you to another? Did you thank them? How about a thank you gift? How about referring them to someone you know? Mutual back scratching is one thing, but kindness goes far. And a heartfelt thank you goes even farther.

3. I may be too nice, but I think it serves me very well as a small business professional. There is nothing wrong with nice. It does not mean you are a pushover or that you won't ever completely lose your cool at one time or another; you just know how to be nice. It's easy. One thing that helps me is to realize that there is one fact I will never know in the life of my client and that one thing may be why they are late with their order, or why they never sent the work instructions they promised a week ago. Let it go and be nice. Be firm, but be nice.

The above tips may seem inconsequential at first glance, but when you think about how many times in a day you “touch” your clients and customers with your customer service, just picking up one of these ideas may be the difference between a one-order customer and a customer who comes back again and again. Try it!