Customers are the life-blood of businesses. And given today's darkening economic picture, customer service is one area experts say small businesses should excel in since loyal clients can mean the difference between remaining your own boss and closing up shop. Here are five steps you can take that won't leave you in the red:
In some cases, one employee may be the reason customers come back. Acuff says he always stays at the Marriott Courtyard ( MAR) when in Philadelphia instead of a ritzier hotel because of one reason: the night clerk, Donna. "Every time I go there, she makes me feel like I'm the only person staying there. Once, I lost my keys to my car rental. She was going off her shift and offered to drive me to my client. As long as Donna is there, I am going to stay at the Marriott Courtyard."
Joseph Reps Inc. , Joe has a chef whipping up a meal onsite or at his offices. Adds Pritchard, "In this business, you're only as good as your last shoot. At this level, when dealing with national and international clients like OfficeMax ( OMX), you're expected to take care of them during the shoot, prior to the shoot, even after the shoot. If there wasn't a vegetarian meal during the shoot, for example, that client may not come back." Scriblink , had to tell a client "no" when he wanted to be able to customize the online whiteboard with mathematical symbols. First, says Adler, this ability would have appealed only to that client, who was a math tutor. Secondly, as a start-up with a certain amount of funds, he had to invest in requests that other clients would find useful, such as a phone conferencing feature, VoIP. That way, people collaborating on a project can speak to each directly from their computers. Adds Adler, who is also the cofounder of a guide to Manhattan parking lots, "The customer isn't always right." If you have a story idea, email firstname.lastname@example.org.