Great customer service starts within the first few seconds of the first contact.

Have you ever called a company – let’s say to order take out – and the person on the other end of the line sounded so unfriendly that you’re automatically frustrated? So, you decide, “Forget it — I don’t feel like dealing with them…” 

Every negative interaction with a customer is like striking a match to a stack of $100 bills: Bad news travels faster than ever with internet reviews. Depending upon where the review was posted, it’s out there forever.

So, you might read “customer service,” and think, “Yeah, yeah…I know, I know…”, but it couldn’t hurt to periodically get a little refresher for both yourself and your team.

Here are 13 ways to master the do’s and don’ts of customer service:

1. Answer the phone with enthusiasm.

Something along the lines of, “Thank you for calling ‘Business So-and-So,’” will automatically start things off on the right foot. 

2. If a customer walks into your business, be sure to greet them promptly, and with a smile.

Customers take their business where they feel welcomed and appreciated.

3. Don’t let your customers feel invisible.

Acknowledge customers immediately, even if you can’t get with them right at that current moment. Say something like, “Would you mind waiting for just a moment? I’ll be able to help you shortly!” In our experience, people are more willing to wait patiently if you act like you know who they are, why they’re there, and let them know that you’ll be there to help them as soon as possible. 

4. Develop the habit of looking each customer in the eye during face-to-face service situations.

Maintaining eye contact helps you focus on what the customer is saying, and it shows them that you’re interested in helping them. Failure to make eye contact exudes an aura of anxiety—the exact opposite of the ambiance you want to create when you’re trying to facilitate a sale.

5. Get the customer’s name—early—by either asking or by looking at your paperwork.

Then, use the customer’s name throughout the interaction. Use Mr. or Mrs., unless you sense that it’s more appropriate to be less formal and go with the first name. 

6. Tell them your name.

Starting service transactions with your name makes the interaction more friendly and personal. Your customer will feel as though they can connect with you as a person, not just a stranger in their home.

7. Smile every time you greet customers in person—and every time you answer the phone.

Yes, you can hear smiles, as well as see them. Also, smiling when you pick up the phone – and continuing to smile throughout the conversation – will inevitably keep you positive and upbeat. Try it…it really works! 

8. Never—ever—leave a customer on hold for over one minute without reconnecting with a status report.

If it’s unavoidably going to be longer than one minute, be straightforward and ask if they would prefer a callback. If so, get a phone number and a convenient time to reconnect—then, make sure the follow up/return call actually happens. 

9. Give the customer that you’re currently serving 100% of your attention. 

Do paperwork, organizing, and other duties on your time, not theirs.

10. Talk less, listen more.

Make it your goal to understand the customer’s needs and expectations, rather than talking your way into a sale. Listen to everything the customer says as if there were a test at the end. Then, confirm your understanding by repeating back, in your own words, what the customer has just said. 

11. Don’t be a robot. 

If you have a verbal script that you require your employees to follow, make sure to instruct them to personalize the delivery — put a little of themselves into it. Simply reciting policies, procedures, and scripted lines make them no different than a recording. 

12. Always read back important information, such as: the customer’s name, address, email address, phone number, product/service ordered, etc.

You also need to confirm that you’ve recorded it correctly. 

13. If you make a mistake when dealing with a customer: admit it, apologize for it, fix it—and move on. 

Customers really don’t expect you to be perfect—that’s unrealistic. However, they do expect you to be honest and make things right.