Whether customer service is your responsibility as the business owner or you have a team of 10, your small business has a duty to perform to a standard that your customers can appreciate. Excellent customer service can make or break a small business, especially in our increasingly competitive global economy. When the consumer is one click away from doing business with anyone in the world, good customer service can really set your company apart. One survey conducted by American Express found that two out of three customers claim they are willing to spend more with businesses where they have experienced a positive service interaction. On the other end of that spectrum, according to Kissmetrics, 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a business due to poor customer service.

So, what is it that will take your ordinary customer service to an entirely different level so it is easily recognizable by your customers? Keep these strategies in mind to stand out among your competition and grow your small business.

1. Build rapport with your customers.

Your client base is likely smaller than a Fortune 500 company where customers are just a number. As a small business owner, you have a real opportunity to personalize the customer experience. Regularly reaching out to your customers, getting to know them by name, and remembering faces will make all interactions with your business more memorable and will make your customers feel valued.

2. Be present on every level.

Customer service is all about being present, from the service counter to social outlets to emails. Taking hours or days to respond to your customers via phone, email or social media will no doubt leave them feeling neglected and eventually unhappy with your services. Before you let it get that far, have an action plan in place for every avenue of communication and make sure your team is on the same page.

3. Treat every customer with the same level of service.

From the customer who checks in with you once a year to the one that you’re in contact with daily, make sure each one gets the same level of service. Repeat customers, referrals and former customers can be a huge asset for your business so you don’t want to roll the dice with inconsistent service experiences.

Having a solid process in place through the entire customer lifecycle – from marketing and sales to onboarding and retention – can ensure that everyone receives the same awesome level of service.

4. Pay close attention to customer feedback.

Make sure your customers have a way to share their opinions about your business. Whether it’s a customer survey or an open invitation to share reviews on websites like Yelp or Facebook, when customers feel like you are listening to what they have to say, they’re more comfortable investing in your product.

5. Hire employees with excellent people skills.

From the cashier to the service agent answering the phones, hiring people with good people skills is a non-negotiable for your small business customer service success. Often customer service representatives serve as the face of your business so you need to ensure that it’s a face you’re willing to show.

6. Learn to be a pro at problem solving.

The age old mantra “the customer is always right” still holds true today. It doesn’t matter who’s right or who’s wrong. At the end of the day, reaching a solution for your customer is going to make a positive impact on your bottom line. In a best case scenario, you can increase customer loyalty and generate referrals.  Worst case scenario, you can quell negative word-of-mouth (in person and online) about your brand. Put your pride aside when dealing with difficult customers. No one wants to be told that they’re wrong especially by a business they’re investing their time and money into – they want to reach a solution..

7. Don’t make false promises or guarantees.

Extravagant promotions and promises will no doubt entice customers. But, nothing is more frustrating for current or potential customers than a click-bait offer or a promotion with a multitude of stipulations. Be honest and upfront about your promises, and you’ll build a happier, more committed customer base.

8. Understand the value of customer retention.

Marketing is expensive and requires time and effort to do well. While it’s important to grow your small business by adding customers, make sure to keep in mind the value of retention. Kissmetrics found that it is 7x more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. In many cases, it’s more economically wise to focus on customers who have already interacted with your business. Retention is only possible if you’re demonstrating appreciation for and value to your customers at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

9. Treat your employees the way you expect them to treat your customers.

This is perhaps one of the most overlooked secrets of stellar customer service. Small business owners should treat employees with the same respect, transparency and appreciation that they would a valued customer. The happier your employees are with their position, the more dedicated they’ll be to your small business success.

It’s a competitive world out there for small businesses, and it’s often hard to cut through the noise. Customer service is your chance to differentiate your product and exceed expectations to build a loyal customer base and make your business memorable.