Customer service isn’t just about dealing with complaints. Providing excellent service starts at the incarnation of a product or service. Good service models are often built in to a brand early on rather than as a post-launch afterthought. Beyond closing a sale, the purpose of customer service is to keep customers happy, and persuade them to come back. Even if a particular customer doesn’t return, it’s a huge win if he or she passes positive feedback about your business on to other potential buyers. While the old adage “the customer is always right” can often lead to unreasonable expectations, there are a few key guidelines to help one brand stand out from another.

4 Tenets for Outstanding Customer Service

Acknowledging questions, complaints, and feedback in a timely manner is incredibly important for a seamless customer service experience. In fact, 45 percent of U.S. consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. It seems simple enough, but in the age of public feedback, great, timely service can be the difference between a one star and a five star review. Keep in mind: Nearly a quarter of people polled in a Pew Research Center survey claimed they had posted comments or reviews online about items they’d purchased. This leads us to our first point.

1. Listen and engage.

Hearing a customer out is just one part of the equation. With social media as a modern-day customer service representative (amongst many other things), customers expect a more interactive experience. Listen to feedback from all channels—be it by phone, comments on product pages, or posts on Twitter or Facebook. Formulate a plan to track every single response so your customer service team can address all of them. Respond to both negative and positive comments in a courteous manner. Negative comments aren’t always so bad. They provide companies the opportunity to show what action they took to resolve a particular problem or request. Research shows nearly six in 10 adults have researched a product or service online, so take the chance to show other potential customers why you care and how you tackle adverse feedback.

2. Be transparent.

Transparency—not just to customers, but also employees, investors, and business partners—is crucial to brand loyalty. Though brand transparency veers from many traditional business practices, sharing future plans or data both inside and outside of a company can promote innovation, helpful participation, and trust. Perhaps more importantly, choosing candour over secrecy can give a brand a face and human quality.

3. Build trust.

Remaining consistent as a brand, being dependable, and providing clear communication help build trust. Brands have to be honest to gain trust from customers, so it’s critical to represent the features and benefits of a product or service in a truthful way. Rather than try and appease a customer with a solution you can’t deliver, avoid lofty or unrealistic promises and instead be upfront. When customers trust a brand, 83 percent will recommend the company to others and 82 percent will continue to use the brand frequently.

4. Take the extra step.

Going the extra mile can mean significant gains for a company. While making promises you can’t keep is a major no-no, if a customer requests free shipping to make up for a delayed order, make it happen. So long as a specific request doesn’t cost a lot of time or money, it’s worth the extra mile. Always remember customer service agents are your sales team.

Customer service isn’t exactly a science, but some of the most successful businesses have risen above competition with exceptional service models. Here are 30 customer service quotes to inspire your own customer service improvements.

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Unhappy customers Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. —Bill Gates

30-10The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers. —Shiv Singh

Center of your universeYour website isn’t the center of your universe. Your Facebook page isn’t the center of your universe. Your mobile app isn’t the center of your universe. The customer is the center of your universe. — Bruce Ernst

30-11Merely satisfying customers will not be enough to earn their loyalty. Instead, they must experience exceptional service worthy of their repeat business and referral. Understand the factors that drive this customer revolution. — Rick Tate

Treat your employees
I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised — Richard Branson

Know what your customers want
Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet. — Kevin Stirtz

legendary customer service
The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary. — Sam Walton

talk to customers face to faceSpend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers. —Ross Perot

Fix things.
Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. —Donald Porter

customer experience
We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better. —Jeff Bezos

Loyal customersLoyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you. — Chip Bell

Make a customer
Make a customer, not a sale. — Katherine Barchetti

easier to buy
Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you. —Mark Cuban

Competitive battleground The customer experience is the next competitive battleground — Jerry Gregoire

How much you carePeople don't care how much you know until they know how much you care — Theodore Roosevelt

Complaining customerStatistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business. —Zig Ziglar

Internet Customer ServiceIn the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away. —Doug Warner

Do moreAlways do more than is required of you. — George Patton

Get closer.
Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves. —Steve Jobs

Serve best
He profits most who serves best. —Arthur F. Sheldon

Join the conversationThe future of communicating with customers rests in engaging with them through every possible channel: phone, e-mail, chat, Web, and social networks. Customers are discussing a company’s products and brand in real time. Companies need to join the conversation. — Marc Benioff

Give people more
Here is a powerful yet simple rule. Always give people more than they expect to get. —Nelson Boswell

Creating experiences The way to a customer’s heart is much more than a loyalty program. Making customer evangelists is about creating experiences worth talking about. — Valeria Maltoni

Be helpful
Be helpful – even if there’s no immediate profit in it.
— Susan Ward

Don't ignore customersCustomers are like teeth. Ignore them and they’ll go away. — Jerry “G” Flanagan

Understand customer behavior

Forget ‘branding’ and ‘positioning.’ Once you understand customer behavior, everything else falls into place. — Thomas G. Stemberg

Connect with peopleGo beyond merely communicating to ‘connecting’ with people. — Jerry Bruckner

Good customer serviceGood customer service costs less than bad customer service. —Sally Gronow

Focus on the customerBe dramatically willing to focus on the customer at all costs, even at the cost of obsoleting your own stuff. —Scott D. Cook

Customer comes first
When the customer comes first, the customer will last.
— Robert Half

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30 Inspiring Customer Service Quotes

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