3.) Teach employees to think of themselves as business consultants rather than employees. Empower them to make customer-pleasing decisions without having to call a supervisor.
4.) Ask employees to change their viewpoint. Have them look at all customers as multi-million dollar businesses and treat them accordingly.
5.) Embrace new ideas and reward innovation. Seek and act on advice from your frontline because most of the time they are the only contact a customer has with your company.
6.) Recognize and reward each other. Think in 360 directions. A manager needs praise from a subordinate a much as from her boss. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition for helping each other resolve customer issues.
7.) Constantly seek innovation. Ask everyone to study the competition and find out what they do that makes them better. The frontline will see what a higher-level manager will not.
8.) Seek and act on customer feedback. Don't bother with customer surveys. Assign an employee or employees to scour the Internet for both positive and negative conversations about your company.
9.) Make your current customers feel important. Offer them price cuts or coupons, make every transaction with them pleasant, communicate transparently and have a live person answer your phones, thanking the customer for his business.
10.) Seek and reward referrals from current customers. One local chiropractor provides a free adjustment to any patient who refers someone else. She gets dozens of referrals every week and her practice thrives even during economic turmoil.
Don't just pay lip service to improving customer service. Good customer service is the linchpin to survival at any time but especially during difficult times. Start by treating your employees well, keeping them in the loop, and releasing them to do what it takes to send each customer away happy.