Have you ever been “wowed” by customer service? Can you think of a recent time when a company bent over backwards to make something right for you when you were dissatisfied? Here are a few examples:

Customer Service

When my son’s entree was late and by the time it came the rest of us were almost finished eating, the waiter took the price of his meal off the check and brought the rest of my family complimentary dessert.

When my refrigerator broke down during a heat wave and a new part had to be ordered, the appliance store came and picked it up to be repaired in the shop, leaving me a loaner in its place, free of charge.

When a birthday present to my daughter from her grandmother arrived broken, I called the company, and they sent not only sent a replacement with no questions asked, they included a $25 gift certificate.

While the above examples may seem ordinary to you, I was surprised at how long it took for me to come up with them. The fact is that most of the time I don’t get exceptional service. Most of the time I get mediocre service, and quite often, I get really bad service. I expect you do too.

Good customer service separates good companies from great companies and it can mean the difference between whether you patronize a company again or badmouth it to everyone you know. In today’s internet-connected world, good customer service is more important than ever. Why? The stakes are higher. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos put it this way: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.”

Harris Interactives recently surveyed 2,291 American adults about customer service and found:

• 86% of the respondents will pay more for a better customer experience.

•89% of respondents who stopped doing business with an organization due to a poor customer experience began doing business with a competitor.

•26% expressed frustration with a company by posting a negative comment on a social networking site.

•79% of those who posted complaints about inferior customer experience online reported that their complaints had been ignored.

No matter what your business is, you need to be in the business of customer service. The Internet has proved a wide array of competition in just about every industry. Customers who do not feel they are being serviced by your organization can quickly take their business elsewhere. As Doug Warner writes, “In the world of internet customer service, it´s important to remember that your competitor is only one mouse click away.”

So how can you offer and maintain great customer service in today’s business environment? Here are five rules to follow:

Five rules why customer service is more important

1. Say Yes! When you have the philosophy of saying yes to your customer, it can change everything. The namesake founder of the Marshall Field department stores in Chicago is famous for saying, “Give the lady what she wants.” That’s saying yes. Yes, we will exchange that. Yes, we will fix that. Yes, we will make it right when we make a mistake. One way to look at is that you customer is paying your salary. Your customer is the reason you are in business. Make your customer happy and your business will thrive.

2. Offer a great product or service. Customer service is a lot easier when you can stand behind what you offer. Strive for excellence in what you provide. Don’t cut corners and don’t keep changing your focus. The best way to increase customer satisfaction is to be the best at what you do.

4. Have a culture of service. Make sure every employee knows that the customer is the heart of your firm. How do you do this? By modeling that behavior from the CEO on down. When you demonstrate how people should be treated by exhibiting that behavior yourself, it can have a domino effect. Instead of just having a customer service department, create a culture in which each employee feels responsible for making customer-pleasing decisions. Another idea: treat your employees well and they will want to treat customers well because they are proud of their company.

5. Act quickly and responsibly. Even though we have all kinds of instant communications today, we still err on getting back with customers promptly. How do you feel when you can’t talk to a real person on the phone or when your e-mails are not acknowledged or returned?  Customer service involves communication. Your staff needs to answer the phone, call back customers, return e-mails, comment positively on Facebook posts and in general make things right when they are not.

How do you get loyal return business? By listening to what your customers want and giving it to them. Make promises you can keep and deliver on them – every time.

5. Get to know your client base better. Use social media to solicit their feedback. Anticipate their needs. The internet has magnified what has always been true. People will talk more about a negative experience than a positive one. The Harris report showed when customers heard back from a company about a complaint, though, 57% of them felt positive enough to use the company again and 22% posted a positive comment about the organization.

Your satisfied clients or customers are your best form of marketing. Give ‘em what they want.