We have all seen them, those dusty mission statement placards that hang askew on an obscure wall in a business somewhere that say things like, “We are 1000% committed to creating an exceptional experience for our customers.” And somehow, ironically, these tend to be the businesses that seem the least committed to customer service.


A recent survey found that 80% of businesses think that they deliver “superior” customer service, and yet only 8% of their customers felt the same way.


Let’s do a little thought experiment:


  • Think about the last salesperson that really annoyed you. What was it that bothered you? Maybe it was a salesman at the nice clothing store who was far more interested in upselling than helping you, or the checker who was so busy talking on her phone that she couldn’t be bothered to ring you up?
  • Now think about an employee you have recently met who was great. What did he or she do right? It is probably some combination of being personable, professional, sharp, and sincerely trying to help you.
  • Finally, what are your feelings about these respective businesses?


  1. Your employees are a reflection of your business.


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“Great customer service” is one of those things that small businesses now is important but in actuality may not be something that gets prioritized. And that’s because, as our little thought experiment shows, customer service, or rather the lack thereof, is one of the very few things that can viscerally turn off a patron. It is that important.


This is especially true today when customers have the ability to very quickly and easily post their experiences of a business – right now, on the go, using their mobile phone. People are more likely to complain about a negative experience than to share a positive one. The latter happens, but statistics show that it is the negative event that gets people fired up enough to post online: Happy customers share their experience with an average of 9 people, whereas unhappy ones share theirs with 16.


Consider additional statistics from the survey mentioned above:


  • 40% of respondents said that having a positive experience with the staff of a business is the main reason they would be likely to spend more money with a company.
  • When asked about why they gave up on a brand, a whopping 73% of people stated that their reason was due to rude or incompetent employees.


How your employees treat your customers is directly proportional to the success or failure of your business.


The good news is that it is not all that difficult to create a culture where customer service is more than a tired motto nailed to a wall. It is really a matter of making it a priority. If you make great customer service a part of your culture, if you spotlight it in training, memos, employee reviews, and actions, your staff will get it.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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