Great retention strategies are the key to a profitable business.

Show your employees, clients, and prospects the love they crave. How? By implementing these easy, inexpensive Customer Service strategies.

It all begins with training. Once your business has customer-facing employees of any kind, Customer Service training must become part of your marketing strategy.

Why? Because front line employees can have a greater impact on brand perception than any other factor, killing even the best marketing intentions on contact. Literally.

If hearing “You’re all set,” or “Here you go,” irritates you too, then you know what I mean. In no way do they replace a “Thank you.”

Saying Thank You is always appropriate when a customer gives you their hard-earned money.

What’s really frustrating about all this is that Customer Service is one of the least expensive and easiest ways to outdo any of your competitors — no matter how big their marketing budgets are. The staff at a locally-owned small business can call people by name when they walk in and connect with them in ways that a large chain or website cannot. This easy, competitive edge can mean the difference between success and failure.

Recently, I walked into the hair salon I’ve been frequenting for many years. The clerk answered the phone while I was standing there trying to make an appointment, completely dismissing me. Didn’t ask the caller to hold on, didn’t ask the (texting) employee standing next to him to take care of me while he answered the phone, didn’t say Excuse me, didn’t let the call go to voice mail. Nope. Just left me standing there mid-sentence. I’ve since changed salons.

This is a disaster, especially when you factor in how online review communities are influential.

Did you know?

  • According to NewVoiceMedia, an estimated $62 billion is lost by US companies alone each year due to poor Customer Service.
  • The probability of selling to an existing satisfied customer is 60-70% versus 5-20% selling to a new customer, says Marketing Metrics.
  • Price-related issues are less detrimental to a business than Customer Service issues which are 4x more likely to cause your customer to defect for your competitor(s).
  • Consumers say they’re happy to support a small business to get personalized service, and 60% are willing to pay more for that service.
  • 96% of unhappy customers don’t make their complaints known to the business, says Instead, they’ll walk away, and you won’t know why, but depending on their circle of influence, hundreds of others might.

These are just some of the many hundreds of statistics from well-known business research organizations that support the theory that Customer Service is indeed affordable, easy to implement, and the best common sense Marketing Strategy that a small business has to wipe out their big-box competition — yet so few actually do it.

Here are ways to make Customer Service a priority in your organization:

Hello? — Make sure customers are greeted, looked in the eye, and spoken to directly. Even better if you know them by name. There’s just nothing like it, and big box stores can’t even touch that. I walked into a store recently, and all three cashiers were head down, texting. One didn’t even realize a customer in her line was waiting to spend their hard-earned money.

Don’t ask questions that can be answered in the negative — Don’t train using “May I help you?” rather train staff to ask, “What are you looking for?” This has to be answered, and a properly engaged customer is more likely to purchase. A family-owned pet food store in my area does this so well. In fact, their staff is very well trained and asks all the right questions. They even take things out of your hand and bring them up to the cash register for you! In contrast, I visited a ‘big box’ pet store the other day, and I stood there for forever until I could even get someone’s attention to ask my question.

Dial your business phone — Then put on your customer hat, is the greeting friendly? Do you state your address? Perhaps cross streets? Clearly, communicate your business hours? Give them your website and/or an alternate phone number for possible emergencies? And, be sure to check those messages frequently (a problem on many cell phones used for business) so that no one ever hears, “This mailbox is full. Goodbye.” Goodbye is right. You may never hear from them again.

Handwritten notes — The art of the handwritten message isn’t dead. In fact, it’s having a resurgence. It’s personal and helps you stand away from the pack. I have a set of blank cards with my logo on the front. I use them for client birthday messages, ‘It’s been a while’ notes, invitations to speaking engagements, etc. So, if you don’t remember what your handwriting looks like anymore, this is a good way to see it! Whenever I do this, I get a positive outcome.

Is your return policy customer-friendly? — I recently tried to return an item to a well-known grocery chain. The item I purchased gave me a bad allergic reaction. Never expecting that to happen, I didn’t save the receipt. The ‘Customer Service’ person stared at me and blurted out their “policy” without even so much as offering me a store credit or apologizing that she couldn’t help me. So, I asked about a store credit, and again she blurted out their “policy.” I left the item on the counter since I could not use it again, walked out, and haven’t returned. Compare this to Trader Joe’s customer-centric return handling. You go to the deck, and you tell them you’d like to return the item, they take it from you, tell you to get what you what if it’s an exchange, or, they’ll give you the cash right from there if it’s a straight return. FOR ANY REASON! This is Customer Service nirvana. No wonder I give them 99% of my grocery money.

Even a small adjustment in your Customer Service mindset and operations can lead to far-reaching improvements in your marketing efforts and seamlessly support those efforts and keep customers coming back. Loyal customers are your best source of income, provide your business with referrals and with great online reviews—a win-win for everyone.

Go spread the love.