SME's – Provide great customer service – and prosper


We have all been there. The tradesman who doesn’t show up when he said he would, the call to the service centre that goes unanswered, or the waitress who is checking her mobile and not taking your order.

Increasingly customers are becoming more discerning and have more choice, so how do you improve customer service and your profitability? How do you turn customer interactions into repeat business?

These five simple steps will help SME’s provide great service for the increasingly discerning customer.

1.    It starts with your staff

To get friendly service, hire friendly people. Hire people with the right attitude and smile. Evaluate, support or change those that don’t represent the service you want to provide. Qualities to look for in your service staff are empathy, consistency and patience. Also make sure your supervisors and managers are leading by example and supporting their staff in offering great customer service.    

2.    Train and communicate

Ensure all staff receive sufficient training and coaching on providing excellent service. Set service standards and communicate and reinforce them at briefings, meetings and in staff communications. Make sure everyone in your company understands the service levels you expect and the type of customer experience you want to provide. When staff have a clear set of expectations and are trained and trusted to do their job, they will feel valued and empowered.

3.    Start listening

If you are not already doing so, ask your customers to rate your service on a regular basis. This can be done via a questionnaire given to your customer when a product or service is completed or sold. Keep the questionnaire short and user friendly and regularly measure the results.

Alternatively call them and follow up after the sale, your customers will appreciate it. Also monitor what is being said about you online, through Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, online review sites and blogs. There is a wealth of information out there, so listen to what is being said.

4.    Under promise, over deliver

Go that extra mile for your customer and make them believe they are truly important. Build a little cushion into a deadline and then deliver early. When sending quotes or estimates again add a little cushion and bring the closing price in lower.

So many businesses deliver the reverse of this maxim, over promise and under deliver. This ultimately erodes the credibility of the firm, the service promise and leaves the customer disappointed and frustrated.  That message will be communicated widely.

5.    Apologise

Complaints are a fact of business life. Accept them, apologise and take responsibility to fix the problem. Apologising to a customer does not always mean you are wrong. However, it does mean you have been trained well to provide quality customer service. Be flexible in your approach to customer problems and never hide behind “it’s company policy”.

Be empathetic and follow up with an explanation and an outline of how you are resolving the problem. Often a customer complaint provides an opportunity to create a loyal customer when handled correctly.


Providing quality customer service can often be the point of difference that separates your company from the competition.  As customers become more discerning, have more choice, their expectations around superior service are increasing.

Customers now have many ways to share their experience through social media. This underscores more than ever the need for every business to focus on providing the best possible service and reaping the rewards. 


Author, David Shackleton, Partner of nem New Zealand.

This article is based on research and opinion available in the public domain.