In our last article, we talked about the importance of providing exceptional customer service. Great service helps you to retain your customers, but it also helps you to create promoters. These promoters are customers who love to spread the word about your business to friends, family members, and colleagues. From a marketing standpoint, promoters are incredibly valuable – few marketing tools are more effective than legitimate word-of-mouth recommendations.

Of course, if providing exceptional service was as simple as pressing a button, every business would be doing it already. Delivering top-notch service requires a commitment on your part… and it also requires strategic planning. Below are five tips to help you deliver exceptional service to your customers and clients:

Create a culture of service. If customer service is an afterthought for your employees, the service they deliver is going to be poor. That’s just reality. On the other hand, if you make customer service a cornerstone of your business, your employees will begin to take it seriously. Talk about service in your weekly meetings. Address it in your business plans. Make customer service a priority throughout every part of your organization.

Define your expectations. It is not enough to give your employees vague instructions. Take the time to define your expectations for each and every interaction your employees have with your customers. Ensure that your employees know how to respond to every question and every complaint that your customers can be expected to raise. Don’t expect your employees to improvise – tell them exactly what you expect.

Practice what you preach. If you spend all morning screaming at your employees, you can’t expect them to turn around and provide courteous service to your customers. This is an area where too many business owners fall short, unfortunately I’ve seen firsthand the negative results all to many times. Lead by example!

Incentivize great service. Consider offering a reward for employees who demonstrate excellent service. This could be a financial bonus, it could be an extra day off, or it could be a prime parking spot. Give your employees a reason to work hard at pleasing your customers.

Survey your customers. Take the time to ask your customers how you are doing. Simply explain that you are trying to offer a high level of service and that you value their feedback. You would be amazed at what you can learn simply by asking!

These five steps will help you as you seek to deliver exceptional service. Stay tuned for the third article in this series, in which we will discuss the art of turning customers into promoters.