Customer service is important for every business but especially for small businesses, where losing one or two customers can have a significant impact on the bottom line. Yet it can also be a challenge for small businesses to keep up with customers, because they have smaller staffs and employees often wear multiple hats. That means everyone is already doing several jobs at once which makes it tougher to be responsive to customers.  

Customer service, however, needs to be a priority. It is especially important for a small business, because it can be the differentiator that keeps customers coming back even if there are larger, big-name companies that offer a wider selection or lower prices.

Here are six ways to ensure everyone at your company is providing top-notch customer service:

Monitor your feedback on social media and business review sites.

Negative feedback is healthy when growing your business but it can hurt your brand if you appear aloof. Google and other search engines look at Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and other third-party review sites–negative social media feedback often shows up in results.  When you find a negative comment or review, respond to it right away. A survey from market research firm Dimensional Research found that a whopping 86 percent of consumers are influenced by negative online reviews, so whenever you can, you want to address those online complaints and try to solve the customer’s problem.

Don’t let any comments or reviews fall through the cracks. Make sure you are receiving emails from all the business review sites you are listed on. Hootsuite is an excellent social media tool to use if you have multiple people monitoring and responding to comments. You can see when a comment comes in and who has responded to it.

Make it personal.

Your customers want to feel they have access to the people behind the business, not just FAQs or online chat. Give them ways to contact you through your website, and not just through email but also by phone, Twitter and Facebook. Post photos and bios of your staff members on your company site, so your customers know they are contacting real people. Let your employees develop their own voice by providing a brand guideline. Ask your customers for personalized feedback, in-person (if possible) or with a personalized email and make sure you acknowledge their response. Not only do customers like being asked for feedback, you can use their feedback to improve your business.

Don’t give customers the runaround.

When consumers are asked what makes a customer service interaction negative, 72 percent blame having to explain a problem to multiple people (Dimensional Research). Your customers shouldn’t have to work hard to find someone that communicates clearly and can help them with their problem, so limit hold times, how many times you ask for information and the number of times you transfer someone. Transparency across teams is key here. When all your employees know the business, have access to the same information, and your confidence to provide excellent customer service, the customer wins.

Use technology.

Great customer service often comes down to how organized your company is and manual methods just don’t cut it anymore. Technology, now more affordable with the benefits that used to be available only to big business, gets your team on the same page and gives them access to the information they need to better serve your customers. With the rise of an online client portal and other modern solutions, it has become possible to enhance customer service regardless of your business size.

Interact with customers in a meaningful way.

Find some common ground or point of understanding with the customer. That humanizes the relationship and will often diffuse conflict. Listen actively to the customer so they know they are being heard. You listen actively by rephrasing what was said so it’s clear you understand it.  Be empathetic—try to put yourself in their shoes so you understand their frustration. And be sure and own your mistakes. It will be hard for a customer to trust you or have confidence in you if you don’t admit a mistake was made. Hearing a simple, “I’m sorry” goes a long way toward defusing customer anger.

Follow up.

Sometimes fixed isn’t really fixed, so make sure your customer was satisfied with the service they received. Send a follow-up email to make sure they feel good about the response they got and that their problem was solved.

People rarely forget a bad customer service experience  – and they tell others about it–but they also talk about great customer service experiences. Make sure your business is a topic of conversation for the right reasons.