When this King Monkey decides to part with his hard-earned dough, he expects to be treated well. I don’t think I have unrealistic expectations. I simply expect the product or service I buy to deliver on its promise—that’s first and foremost. If it’s supposed to slice and dice, then it darn well better slice and dice as advertised.

But there’s more to customer service than simply being satisfied with the product. Delivering a quality product or service is a given. There’s the whole customer experience to consider from start to finish, ranging from how you greet customers at your store (whether it’s a virtual or bricks and mortar venue), to how you treat them, to how fluid and seamless the process of purchasing and receiving your product or service is.

Every step along the way is a golden opportunity to shine—a chance for your brand to exceed expectations and to endear yourself to customers. It’s an opportunity to build loyalty, trust, and enduring relationships—but it’s also an opportunity to fail.

  1. Set proper expectations in your marketing. From social media to digital marketing, your brand story—the sum of the messages about your product or service and how you deliver on your promises—needs to properly set the expectations for your target audience. You may hear a lot of marketing advice about under promising and over delivering, which is always better than the reverse, but I generally prefer not to under promise (because doing so might not get people in the door) and then consistently deliver the goods. In other words, do what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it, without fail. Consistency is key.
  1. Make your customers comfortable and at ease. The buying experience should be a pleasant one, not filled with anxiety. Chances are if you sell big ticket items, such as automobiles, electronics, or professional services, your customers are already feeling a little “anxious” when they show up on your doorstep or landing page. They’re uneasy about parting with a lot of money and quite likely uncertain of their purchase decision.You can put customers at ease immediately with the quality of your storefront or virtual space. Is it clean, organized? Does the look and feel and tone of your establishment exude confidence and dependability? Does your venue make customers and prospects feel that they’ve made the right choice (so far, anyway) or does it send up red flags?
  1. How you GREET customers sets the stage. Are your employees available and accessible (without being pushy) from the outset, or are customers left to fend for themselves, slowly getting irritated when they can’t find what they’re looking for? I think you know which scenario if preferable.Virtual businesses need to take note as well: how you greet customers in your digital stores is just as important (if not more so) than the first impressions physical retailers make. Think about it. It’s a lot easier to do an about face and shop somewhere else online than it is for customers to leave your store, get in their cars, drive elsewhere, park, and do it all over again. For virtual businesses, a customer trip to a competitor’s website is a simple click away. Your home page/landing page needs to be informative, helpful, and generate a positive first impression.
  1. How you TREAT customers keeps the sales opportunity alive. Are your employees attentive, knowledgeable, and patient? Or do they act as though they’d like to be just about anywhere else but where they are?For the most part, customers have many, MANY options when it comes to buying a particular product or service. I know I’ve vacated many an establishment when I felt as though I wasn’t wanted or important to them. Most likely, there’s a nearby competitor selling something equivalent to what you are selling, or there are dozens of online vendors more than happy to scoop up a disgruntled buyer.Treat your customers well through the entire sales experience. Make them feel like they’re royalty when they’re in your store—because for that moment, from your perspective, they are. The same goes for online businesses. Make it easy for customers to find the product or service they want, get their questions answered, and complete their transactions effortlessly.
  1. The customer experience doesn’t end with a sale. Demonstrating deep knowledge of your product or service both before and after the sale is critical. Customers expect you to know the ins and outs of your product—and certainly more than they do. They expect you to help them make their purchase decision, and then be there if they run into issues using your product or service after the sale, especially if there are problems. How well you stand behind the products or services you sell tells people a lot about your brand and what it stands for. Are you in it for a quick sale (one and done) or are you in it to build long lasting relationships that lead to repeat customers and positive word-of-mouth?
  1. Tout your customer service excellence. Great customer service is something you can market. When all else is equal (price, quality, effectiveness), sometimes all that sets you apart from your competitors is your customer service reputation. Regularly recognize your staff for their excellent customer service with instore or online postings. Consider highlighting “gold medal” customer service winners on social media. It’s a great way to get and keep employees engaged, while also showcasing your customer-service-centricity for target buyers.
  1. ALWAYS remember it’s easier to smile than it is to frown. Certainly, there’s more to customer service than a smile and a happy greeting, but hey—it’s a good place to start. Whether you’re greeting someone in-person, by phone, or via an online chat or even email, people can sense the authenticity of your “smile” through visual cues and even the tone/choice of the words you use. Science proves that smiling can actually make you happy (as well as those around you who experience it) . . . while wearing a frown can make you and others down (how’s that for some monkeyz poetry?).

Some Funny Monkey Videos to Put a Smile on Your Face

No Place for Runner-Ups

When it comes to customer service, your business cannot afford NOT to win the gold medal. While winning Olympic bronze or silver signifies great athletic achievement, getting anything but gold when it comes to customer service, represents failure. Second place just doesn’t cut it.

What are you doing to go for customer service gold? What things do you do to set yourself apart from others? How do you get (and keep) staff engaged in providing excellent service?

Paul June is King Monkey of BARREL O’MONKEYZ, a full-service digital media and marketing group specializing in more creativity, ideas, and fun for action sports marketing, sportswear marketing, sports product marketing, active lifestyle consumer products, health product marketing, and brands in San Diego and Southern California.