How Customer Service
Can Make or Break a Business

See also: Top Tips for Effective Customer Service

Everyone has at least one memorable experience as a customer or client that leaves a lasting impression. You might have a stellar one-of-a-kind encounter with a professional agent, or a seriously flawed or negative interaction with a customer service rep or member of sales staff. Either way, a lasting impact is the result, and this can either establish or ruin any future relationship with the company or business.

There are several factors that determine how a customer service experience can make or break the success of your business, whether it's a small proprietorship or a growing corporation.

Customer service is the backbone and foundation of a business. Always keep this in mind when you meet new, potential customers. Your storefront and website or business blog should be a welcoming invitation for new, prospective clients to pique their interest in your products and services. The success of your venture depends heavily on the relationships that you build with clients over time.

Make a Great First Impression

A first impression is important initially and often determines whether someone will return for future service.

It is this level of consistent service and a personal touch that helps secure a long-term business-client relationship. If you're going above and beyond as often as you can, exceeding the expectations of the customer, they will appreciate and expect a high standard of service from your firm. It is imperative to not only maintain this level of experience but make it a reason the client returns. Many customers remain loyal to a business or company because of the way they are treated.

Realistic Approach

A realistic and upfront approach with clients is essential.

As you introduce yourself, your line of products and/or services, attach a significant connection to the potential client's needs. This should be clearly stated in your company or firm's vision online so that clients know what to expect. Keep it real, avoid trying to sell and, instead, focus on offering advice or suggestions.

For example, a mortgage company with a more manual business process will surely like to hear about automating things and reducing the manual workflow. Clarity and mutual understanding are often key reasons many customers seek a specific service or product, so they can make their daily routine effective and reduce stress. This includes everything from a therapeutic massage to a local meal planning and delivery service.

Clear Communication

Communicate clearly and ensure the customer understands what the service or product can do for them.

This will avoid confusion and increase positivity associated with your brand. Keep the language direct and easy to understand, and read the client's cues to determine how comfortable or attentive they are in what you have to offer. This leads to another aspect of customer service that is essential in increasing productivity: time management. You'll want to focus on the individuals who are truly interested in what you have, instead of trying to promote or sell to someone who is not likely to buy. Keep it real, down-to-earth, and conversational.

Convince Them

Focus on the factors that are most likely to appeal to your customers: convenience, durability, and cost-effectiveness.

If a product or service costs more, there must be a good reason for the premium price. The customer will want assurance that they are getting what they pay for, as the outcome of their purchase will impact their interaction with customer service, even if the initial experience was favorable. Make it personal and show them how their purchase will benefit their lifestyle by drawing parallels to the features and their ability to increase convenience and provide other advantages.

Know Your Products

Know your products and discuss them with ease and confidence.

If the product is new, be honest, and consult with resources to answer any questions or concerns from the customer. This exercise will increase your knowledge and make the process easier for the next client who is interested in purchasing the same product. The customer will acknowledge that you are going above and beyond to ensure they know exactly what to expect, instead of simply assuming or making incorrect statements about the product or service.

Keep Improving the Service

Learn to adapt and take customer complaints seriously.

One of the easiest ways to lose business is disappointing a client, then failing to remedy the situation. In some cases, it is worthwhile offering a free product or extend a service to remedy a situation that could otherwise lead to disaster. With the prevalence of online marketing and reviews, individuals can easily post a negative review or feedback that can hurt a new business or damage the reputation of a long-standing company, especially if this occurs more than once.

You'll be pleasantly surprised how many customers are willing to forgive and continue their patronage, as long as their concerns are understood and respected, and avoid having to resort to sending a demand letter. Ignoring a client's complaint will only make the situation worse, instead of looking towards an amicable solution.

Ask Questions

Take the initiative and ask questions.

Some people respond well when you show an interest in them and they are more likely to hear what you have to say. Realistically, you won't establish a relationship with every potential client who contacts you or walks into your shop, though it does help provide a smooth transition into future business if it's likely to happen.

There is a delicate balance between acting too impulsively towards a customer, which can have the opposite effect and turn them away and keeping conversation flow light and comfortable.

Listen Well

Empathy and genuine interest are accomplished through good listening skills.

This is one of the most valuable skills you'll need in business and will give you the advantage. Active listening is more than simply hearing what the other person has to say: it means actively engaging through both verbal and non-verbal communication with a nod or regular eye contact. Avoid interruption and let your potential (or current) clients express themselves. They will give you a good indication of where your business and potential for a relationship will develop. Everyone wants to be heard and understood, and for this reason, strong listening skills are essential in understanding the needs and wants of your client base.

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Learn more about emotional intelligence and how to effectively manage personal relationships at home, at work and socially.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their interpersonal skills and are full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

To Wrap Up

Customer service is the basis for establishing a successful client base and business today and into the future.

Securing long-term networks with a variety of people in your line of expertise takes a bit of creativity and proactive positivity, though it is worthwhile in establishing a solid foundation for enduring success.

About the Author

Tori Smith has over 15 years’ experience in business administration, including work in the financial sector, non-profit organizations and property management. She holds a bachelor's degree in general studies and is very goal oriented.