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Customer Service

Provided by the International Finance Corporation

As a small business owner, you should make it your goal to provide great customer service. This could be a very helpful tool to set yourself apart from your competitor and make sure your customers are not looking for options to replace you with your competitor.

Customer service is the process of delivering a service or product to your clients at every touch point with them – before a purchase, during it and after.

Customer service is one of your most important assets, especially in this age of technological innovation, when everything is automated, and your customers are seconds away from sharing their experience with masses.

Your product quality alone may not guarantee you a substantial market share. There may come a time when a competitor emerges with a similar or a better version of what you are offering. Your customer service practices may be what differentiate you from your competition. According to an O2 survey published in Business Report in 2013, 67% of customers will tell eight of their acquaintances or family members about a bad service, and 70% of them will not forgive a business for bad customer service.

HomeAway, a vacation rental company, which entered the market 2 years before Airbnb, was not nearly as well-known and reputable as its competitor. As Airbnb entered the picture in 2008 with a strong Social Marketing campaign, it drove a lot of customers away from HomeAway, offering them more hassle-free, easy-to-manage rentals and profiles. In recent years, the tendency has started shifting, and more and more online renters are turning to HomeAway as a preferred company for renting. Why?

It was not until Airbnb started lagging behind in the customer service department, a much talked about weakness of not resolving client issues without providing much explanation. HomeAway then used the moment to revamp its customer service; as you set up a profile with the company, you get a call from a representative reiterating their excitement to work with you. The representative then offers a personal mobile number with 24h availability.  


As the above example demonstrates, investing time and effort to build lasting relationships with your customers could be invaluable to your business success. What customer service tactics can you then use to improve your service?

Make yourself reachable

If you have ever tried calling a customer service department of a company endlessly waiting on the phone for a representative, you will understand how frustrating it is not to get a timely service. Your customers should feel like your relationship lasts beyond their purchase, and you are there to care for their needs. It’s very important that they are able to reach you within a reasonable timeframe.

Be responsive

Do not test your customers’ patience. Respond as quickly to your customer inquiries as possible, whether they contact you by email, phone or social media. It is important that their urgency seems urgent to you as well. If you are unable to remedy the situation right away, respond back confirming receipt and let them know you are working to resolve their issue.

Listen to your customers

After being in business for several years, you will realize that sometimes customers just want to vent. Allow them to do so. Be agreeable and listen to their issue carefully, validate their feelings by being sympathetic and ask questions if needed before you offer a solution. You will realize that regardless of what solutions you offer, you have already done a great deal by listening to them and caring about their issue.


Taking responsibility and apologizing to a customer does not always mean you are in the wrong. It may or may not be so. However, it does mean that you have been trained well to provide quality customer service. Be empathetic by listening attentively, and offer a sincere apology. You may want to follow by an explanation of what happened, and then explain that your team is working to resolve the issue. You may also go a step further and offer a discount, send a personalized letter or even a gift in the mail.


Let’s say you are running a cleaning service and your client calls you with a complaint that the office was not properly dusted, what do you do? Remember, a customer’s complaint about your business can work to your advantage if you know how to turn the situation around and create a loyal customer. Apologizing and offering to either send your cleaners back to properly dust the place, offering a discount or a free cleaning may be the best way to handle the situation. This will make the client feel valued, and your company will enjoy a repeat business from him.

Say “Yes” even when you feel like saying “No”

One of your primary goals should be maximizing your customers’ experience. As such, having the culture of saying “yes” is a great start to assure that your customers keep coming back. There are times when you are sure that your customer is being unreasonable, but it is in your interest to find a way around the frustration and help the customer resolve his issue. This does not mean you are giving up your personal stand, but it means you are going above and beyond to be customer-friendly.   

Ask for feedback

You may think you are doing everything right, but you can never be sure. Learn what your customers want, make it available to them and then ask them for feedback to make sure you are doing all you can to cater to their needs. Use the following Customer Satisfaction Survey template to get feedback from your clients.

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