woman holding phone with positive customer service image
Good customer service is about making customers feel valued and satisfied, which will encourage them to want to do business with you. — Getty Images/Urupong

Businesses can't afford to underestimate the power of customer service. Top-notch customer service often translates into higher sales because customers who are treated well are more likely to buy again. In fact, a 2017 global Microsoft survey found that 96% of consumers say customer service is an important factor in their choice of loyalty to a brand.

That same survey revealed that more than half of respondents have higher expectations for customer service today than they did in the previous year, and it really pays to meet those expectations: According to Harvard Business Review, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can boost profits by 25% to 95%.

"In a fast-paced, competitive market, customers like to feel acknowledged," said Stephanie Pouse, managing partner of The Brahma Group. "By creating a positive experience around your brand, you increase the probability of customers re-investing, recommending and staying loyal to your business."

Below, business leaders offer some key customer service tactics that can help increase loyalty, happiness and ultimately, revenue.

Be responsive

Mark Kohlenberg, founder and CEO of Moral Code, says consumers want to patronize and recommend brands that invest in a higher level of customer service.

"Customer service can be a huge competitive advantage that not only increases sales but helps define a brand as customer-focused," Kohlenberg told CO—.

To this end, brands should aim to be responsive, timely and, most importantly, genuine, he added.

[Read: How to Boost Customer Retention and Drive Repeat Business]

Invest in customer relationships

Businesses that create positive, ongoing relationships with their customers help customers feel appreciated. This means reaching out for contact, feedback and communication outside of sending an invoice, said Pouse.

"By showing them that you're there and ready to assist throughout the duration of their investment, consumers can rest easy knowing that their time and/or funds are in the right hands," she said.

Give them a gift

Depending on the type of business you operate, strategic gifting can encourage customers to buy a greater amount more often and refer you to other people.

"When strategic gifting is done with the right intention, at the right time and with the right gift, there are few other ways to make such a lasting impression to your customers," said Lewis Goldstein, president of Blue Wind Marketing. "It's a genuine way of showing appreciation ... [and] they will want to refer you … without you even asking."

In a fast-paced, competitive market, customers like to feel acknowledged.

Stephanie Pouse, managing partner, The Brahma Group

Leverage technology

Technology has changed many business operations in recent years, and customer service is no exception. Davina Farahi, founder of Shaya, recommends leveraging instant messaging and chat technology to better serve your customers.

"There are applications that allow you to create sales orders in your chat conversation so you can walk a customer through a sale," said Farahi. "If you don't want to pay for software, you can try selling through Facebook messenger or Instagram messaging by taking down the order information and inputting it yourself to create the order."

Put yourself in their shoes

Remember, your customers are humans, too. Don't forget to think about their feelings, needs and motivations when you're pushing out a new product or service — and always consider the benefit to them, said Pouse.

"By keeping your customers at the forefront of your mind, it will reflect in your ability to grow and maintain a customer base," she added. "Continuously put yourself in their shoes. Would you be satisfied with the current structure and/or customer service? If not, you know something has to change."

Make returns a seamless process

Today's consumers have come to expect free shipping and returns thanks to retail giants like Amazon. From a business perspective, absorbing that cost is a small price to pay to keep customers happy.

"As long as the consumer isn't abusing the privilege and the product is returned in saleable condition, take it back [for free] and keep the customer," explained Kohlenberg. "Too many customers are lost and end up telling their friends and family over botched return experiences."

[Read: Want to Improve Customer Retention? Try These 3 Expert Strategies]

Offer loyalty programs

Everyone loves free stuff and discounts for being a loyal customer. Loyalty programs have been proven to boost customer retention and increase sales from repeat customers because they already trust your business.

"Loyalty programs are important as a method to keep coming back and also to reward customers for their loyalty to a brand," said Kohlenberg. "Airlines with frequent flyer programs and Amazon Prime are great examples of this."

Your customers make your business, so it makes good sense to be "customer-obsessed."

"Treat them well so they will keep coming back and want to tell others about your business," Goldstein said.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published December 05, 2019