What is good customer service? 10 strategies for success

by Emily Stevens

Published • 23/05/2024 | Updated • 23/05/2024


What is good customer service? 10 strategies for success

by Emily Stevens

Published • 23/05/2024 | Updated • 23/05/2024


As humans, we’re hardwired to remember negative experiences more vividly than positive ones. It’s known in psychology as the negativity bias — and it explains why one offhand insult has the power to undo a dozen compliments.

The same goes for customer service.

One bad experience with your company could lose you that customer forever. Deliver exceptional service, however, and you’ll have a steady stream of happy customers flowing through the door.

And the best part? You don’t need a huge team or unlimited budget to deliver good customer service.

In this guide, we’ll show you what good customer service looks like and share actionable strategies you can implement for big results — without breaking the bank or spreading yourself too thin. 

Almost 20% of small businesses fail in their first year. Prioritising good customer service early on will help you build a positive brand reputation, grow a loyal customer base, and increase your chances of long-term success.

What is good customer service?

Good customer service refers to how you show up for your customers. It’s about being there for them when they need you, meeting and exceeding their expectations, and making sure they have a positive experience.

Good customer service is reflected in:

  • How you engage and interact with your customers. It’s how you greet them when they arrive, how you treat them while they’re in your care, how efficiently you serve them, and how effectively you meet their needs.

  • How you address issues and solve problems. Good customer service is about responding quickly to complaints, offering solutions and alternatives when things don’t go to plan, and doing your best to rectify a negative customer experience. 

  • How you delight customers by going the extra mile. You might surprise your customers with a freebie on their birthday, for example, or include a handwritten note with their purchase to thank them for their custom.

Good customer service is both reactive and proactive. It’s about providing excellent support when something goes wrong (reactive) and anticipating and meeting your customers’ needs on an ongoing basis (proactive).

Good customer service is crucial for positive customer relations, which you’ll need if you’re going to run a successful business. On that note, let’s take a closer look at why good customer service matters.

Why is good customer service important? 5 key benefits

Good customer service lays the foundation for a positive customer experience. And, when customers enjoy their experience with your company, they’re more likely to return.

That’s not only great for your reputation. It has a direct impact on your bottom line, improving your chances of long-term profitability and success.

So what are the concrete benefits of good customer service? Let’s lay them out.

1. Good customer service increases customer loyalty

If you’ve got the choice between two local coffee shops, you’ll probably go back to the one with the friendly barista while avoiding the one that insists you pay cash-only. 

And you wouldn’t be alone. In a Salesforce survey of over 14,000 customers, 88% said they are more likely to purchase from a brand again if they receive good customer service. 

On the flip side, 65% of customers report that they’ve gone elsewhere after receiving poor customer service, according to a study by Khoros

Happy customers who receive great service are more likely to return — it’s a no-brainer.

2. Good customer service drives revenue

A steady stream of customers equates to a steady cash flow. In fact, the financial benefit of customer loyalty is twofold. 

On the one hand, satisfied customers are more inclined to return and spend money. At the same time, it’s well-documented that customer retention is cheaper and less resource-intensive than customer acquisition.

If you’re considering how to get clients while keeping costs down, good customer service is a win-win strategy. By nurturing positive relationships through exceptional service, you can increase the lifetime value of each customer and reduce the costs associated with attracting new ones.

3. Good customer service builds a positive reputation

Satisfied customers are more likely to recommend your business to friends and family, providing free word-of-mouth marketing and powerful social proof.

This helps to raise your profile, build a positive reputation, and attract new customers — resulting in steady and sustainable organic growth (which, by the way, is one of the most low-risk, low-cost business growth strategies).

4. Good customer service is a key differentiator

When it comes to standing out from the competition, good customer service is often the make-or-break factor

If you’ve got two local hair salons, both run by experienced stylists with the same qualifications and charging similar prices, the one with better customer service will be the preferred choice. 

This competitive edge is crucial for gaining and maintaining a strong foothold in your market.

5. Good customer service sets you up for long-term success 

All the benefits we’ve highlighted so far — customer loyalty, revenue growth, a positive reputation, and a competitive edge — are all key factors for long-term success. 

The value of good customer service is especially pertinent for small businesses. Given that just over a third of UK startups make it past the five-year mark, prioritising good customer service from the outset will help you future-proof your business and flourish well beyond those critical early years.

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What does good customer service look like? 

There are five fundamental principles of good customer service:

  1. Transparency

  2. Accountability

  3. Responsiveness

  4. Empathy

  5. Convenience

These principles underpin every example of good customer service, and you can use them to guide your own customer service efforts (we’ll show you how with our actionable strategies in the next section). 

First, let’s explore what each of these principles means. 

1. Transparency

Transparency ensures that your customers are well-informed about the products and services you offer. It involves being open and honest about your pricing strategies, policies, and health and safety protocols, as well as providing accurate information about availability and wait times. 

In a bakery, transparency could look like clearly labelling items that are gluten-free, plant-based, or contain nuts. If you run an appointment-based business, you’d want to be transparent about any last-minute cancellation fees. A beautician must be transparent about the products and techniques they use on each customer.

It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re running. Transparency helps with building trust, managing client expectations, and preventing misunderstandings — all of which contribute to good customer service.

2. Accountability

When things go wrong, customers expect accountability. An important part of good customer service is taking ownership of mistakes, addressing problems and concerns as soon as they arise, and being proactive about finding solutions. 

If you get someone’s coffee order mixed up, you might show accountability by apologising and giving them a free replacement. If there’s a delay with a customer’s food, you might explain that there’s an issue in the kitchen and offer a discount on the final bill. 

When you demonstrate accountability, you show your customers that their satisfaction is the top priority — and that you’re committed to providing an excellent service

3. Responsiveness

In a study of more than 1,900 consumers, business growth expert Jay Baer found that, for two-thirds of customers, speed is just as important as price. In the same study, 50% of customers said they’d be less likely to spend money if a business is slower to respond than they expect. 

Responsiveness doesn’t mean being available 24/7, but it does mean responding within a reasonable time frame, sharing timely updates on orders or appointments, and generally providing an efficient service. 

Responsive customer service shows that you value your customers’ time. If you’re slow and inattentive, however, it may well come across as though you don’t care.

4. Empathy

To deliver good customer service, you must truly understand your customers’ needs, see things from their perspective, and show compassion when things go wrong. 

Empathy is crucial for building a rapport with your customers, meeting their expectations, and fostering loyalty — and it shows up in small but significant ways. 

You can practise empathy by actively listening to your customers, acknowledging their frustrations, and responding in a patient and supportive manner if they have concerns or complaints. Whether you’re looking at how to deal with difficult clients or simply want to improve overall customer relations, empathy goes a long way.

5. Convenience 

Finally, good customer service is about making it as easy as possible for people to interact with your business, access your products and services, and get support when they need it.

This might involve enabling your customers to make appointments online, exploring how to use social media for your small business if that’s one of your customers’ preferred communication channels, offering a local delivery service, or making it easy for customers to pay with their smartphone. 

Convenience means different things to different people, but it’s ultimately about delivering customer service that’s straightforward and hassle-free. Optimise for convenience and you’ll boost customer satisfaction, create a positive experience, and encourage repeat business.

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We’ve covered the foundational pillars of good customer service. Now let’s translate them into actionable strategies. 

10 ways to deliver outstanding customer service 

1. Focus on the most relevant customer service channels 

‘Multichannel’ and ‘omnichannel’ are often held up as the pinnacle of good customer service. But, while such strategies may work well for large companies with ample resources, they’re not always realistic for smaller businesses. 

If you don’t have the budget, infrastructure, or headcount to provide exceptional customer service across multiple channels, then don’t make that your goal.

Instead, identify just one or two channels that are most relevant for your audience — conducting thorough market research to pinpoint the channels your customers prefer —  and focus solely on those.

If your main customer base is elderly people who don’t really use the internet, be contactable by phone. If your customers are active on social media, focus on their preferred platforms. 

Aim for quality over quantity. It’s much better to provide excellent customer service via just one channel than to provide poor service across many

2. Be responsive and communicative 

Customers value timely communication. Strive to be as responsive as possible, whether it’s in-person or via one of your customer service channels. 

If a customer calls and leaves a message, get back to them within a reasonable time frame. If they book an appointment online, leverage email marketing for your small business and send a prompt (preferably automated) confirmation email. When a customer enters your shop, ensure that they’re greeted and served as quickly as possible. 

And remember the transparency principle here, too. If there’s a period when you’re likely to be unresponsive — over the bank holiday weekend, for example, or if you’re shutting shop for the summer break — communicate that clearly ahead of time. Let customers know how long you’ll be away and when they can expect a response. 

Customers don’t expect you to be on call 24/7 (unless you’re operating an emergency service, perhaps) but they do like to know where they stand. Aim to respond as quickly as you can. And, when speed isn’t possible, communicate clearly to manage expectations

3. Personalise your customer service 

Personalisation is incredibly powerful, and small businesses have a great advantage here. You’re much closer to your customers, allowing for more personal interactions and a deeper understanding of their needs. 

Use this insight to tailor your customer service to the individual. 

If you know that Jo has a habit of forgetting their monthly appointment, send them an extra reminder the day before. If you’re fulfilling a custom order for somebody’s birthday, include a personalised birthday card with the delivery. If you remember that Brooke only drinks almond milk, get some in stock for their next visit. 

Find small but significant ways to connect with your customers and deliver a service that feels personal and thoughtful. This helps to build a strong rapport, creates a memorable experience for the customer, and ultimately does a better job of meeting their needs. 

4. Listen and learn

Feedback is your most valuable tool. It provides direct insight into how your customers feel, allowing you to quickly identify what’s working and what needs improving

And, despite what the internet will tell you, you don’t need elaborate systems and software in place to gather useful feedback. You can learn a lot by simply engaging with your customers and listening to what they say. 

If you have a social media presence, keep track of how people are talking about you online. What’s the general sentiment associated with your business? Are there any recurring themes, both good and bad, that frequently come up in reviews? 

If you have face-to-face contact with your customers, listen to what they say in casual conversation — and encourage staff to pass on any feedback they receive. 

Perhaps a few customers have mentioned that you’re a bit more expensive than your competitor down the road (in which case, you may want to look at how to do a competitor analysis) or that they miss a particular item that you discontinued last year. Those small but significant insights can help you make changes that will greatly improve your customer service.

Be proactive about seeking feedback, too. Suggestion boxes, comment cards left on tables, and scannable QR codes are all simple, unobtrusive ways to ask for customer reviews. And, if you’ve got an email database, consider sending out a yearly survey. 

Wild Fawn Jewellery, an ethical handmade jewellery business in London, does a great job of incentivising customer feedback with a gift voucher. Every year, they send out an email survey to hear what customers would like to see from them in the next 12 months. In return for completing the survey, customers get a £20 voucher to spend.


Bonus tip: Where appropriate, let customers know what actions you’ve taken in response to their feedback. This shows that their feedback is valued, and that you’re committed to continuous improvement.

5. Optimise for convenience and efficiency

Good customer service is convenient and efficient, so aim to make things as straightforward as possible for your customers. 

Think about the design, logistics, and physical setup of your business. What tweaks can you make to improve the overall experience and serve your customers more effectively?

If you offer an appointment-based service, leave enough buffer time between each slot. That way, if an appointment runs over, you won’t keep the next customer waiting too long. If you have particularly busy periods on the shop floor, schedule additional staff shifts to keep queues down during peak hours. 

Another way to optimise for efficiency and convenience: streamline the payment process. Accept various payment types such as cash, contactless, and smartphone, make sure you’ve got quick and responsive Point of Sale (POS) technology in place, and reduce checkout queues by offering tableside payments. 

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6.  Be proactive and solution-focused 

Good customer service is both reactive and proactive. Be solution-focused when handling issues, and be proactive about anticipating and meeting your customers’ needs. 

How to be solution-focused when providing reactive customer service:

If a customer comes to you with a complaint, respond with accountability and action. 

First, apologise for the issue and accept responsibility — then move quickly from problem to solution. What steps can you take to improve this situation for the customer? 

Whether it’s issuing a refund, offering a discount, or giving them a complimentary product as a gesture of goodwill; it’s essential to compensate your customers for a negative experience. This shows that you’re genuinely committed to providing a good service and that you care about making them happy. 

How to proactively meet your customers’ needs:

The other side of the customer service coin is about proactivity: being attuned to your customers’ needs and meeting them proactively. 

If you see a customer spill their drink, for example, don’t wait for them to approach you. Make them a new drink free of charge and have someone take it over to where they’re sitting. 

Another example: a beautician notices that one of their regular customers is having trouble with dry skin. A proactive approach would be to recommend an additional moisturising treatment, or to give them a sample of a new cream to try between visits.

No matter what kind of products or services you provide, there are always customer needs to be met and problems to be solved. Apply a two-pronged approach (reactive and proactive) to customer service and you’ll have all bases covered. 

7. Deliver on your promises

When a customer chooses your business, they’re trusting you to meet their needs and expectations — and trust is everything when it comes to building credibility and gaining your customers’ loyalty. 

This is the golden rule of good customer service: if you promise something, make sure to deliver. 

It sounds simple enough, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of over-promising and under-delivering. 

You want to wow your customers and stand out from the competition, so you promise free same-day delivery in the local area and guarantee freshly-baked goods each morning and promise both a plant-based range and a gluten-free assortment…

Before you know it, you’re promising lots of great things that you can’t actually deliver. Instead of dazzling your customers, you’ve unintentionally let them down and now they’re disappointed. 

Avoid this scenario by setting realistic and achievable expectations. Focus on areas where you can really excel and only make promises that you can realistically keep. This is how you’ll truly delight your customers, gain their trust, and have them return again and again. 

8. Empower your staff

Good customer service is a team effort, and it needs to be consistent no matter who the customer speaks to. 

Train your staff so that they’re able to talk knowledgeably about your products and services, and equip them to answer questions accurately and thoroughly. 

At the same time, empower all customer-facing team members to solve problems and make decisions. Encourage them to take initiative, use their own judgement, and address customer issues on the spot without seeking approval. 

Finally, hone your team’s customer service skills. Emphasise the importance of friendly and professional communication, a proactive attitude, and responding with empathy and compassion when customers are upset.

Bonus tip: Lead by example. If you want to build a culture of good customer service, it starts at the top. Don’t just train your team; model the skills and behaviours you want them to demonstrate when engaging with customers.

9. Look for opportunities to go above and beyond

Beyond providing good customer service on the day-to-day, find opportunities to go the extra mile

Again, this doesn’t need to be a big-budget endeavour; small gestures can make a huge impact. 

You might throw in a freebie if a customer is having a bad day, or show your appreciation with a handwritten note and a gift voucher for that customer who keeps recommending you to their friends. Perhaps one of your regular clients is sick so you extend your usual working hours to fit them in next week instead. 

Whether it’s surprising your customers with an unexpected gift, accommodating special requests, going above and beyond to fit someone in, or making an effort to follow up; exceeding expectations will set your customer service apart. 

10. Invest in good customer service early on

Last but not least, prioritise good customer service from the outset. Weave it into the very fabric of your business so that it becomes a core part of your brand identity. 

It doesn’t matter if you have two customers, 22 customers, or 200: be known as that business with the friendly staff, the one that goes above and beyond, the one who genuinely cares. 

There are many setbacks that you can easily recover from. A not-so-great product line? You learn and iterate. An unsuccessful marketing campaign? You can always rethink and revise the marketing strategy for your small business. Bad customer service? Not so quickly forgiven or forgotten.

The customer service you provide leaves a lasting impression that can be very difficult to fix. Commit to getting it right from the very beginning, and maintain those high standards as your business grows and evolves

3 big brands that are winning at customer service (and what small businesses can learn from them)

1. The North Face

The North Face shows us the value of going above and beyond with customer service. 

When an unhappy customer took to TikTok to complain that her waterproof jacket was not actually waterproof, The North Face didn’t simply respond with an apology and a refund. They delivered a brand new jacket, by helicopter no less, to the mountaintop where the customer was waiting. 

The outcome? An incredibly satisfied customer — and a huge bump for The North Face’s brand reputation. 

What The North Face teaches us about good customer service: 

You don’t need a helicopter to provide good customer service — but some customer problems will require creative solutions. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, even if it leads you to an unconventional or even experimental approach. 

2. Spotify

Spotify knows the importance of being responsive, proactive, and supporting your customers with competence and expertise. 

Customers seeking specialised support can turn to SpotifyCares, a dedicated help initiative available on X, Facebook, and YouTube. Off the back of SpotifyCares, Spotify went on to launch Spotify Tips & Tricks — an ongoing product education resource that highlights useful features and content. 

Upon launching the initiative, Spotify wrote:

“Our hope is to engage with you, our users, to proactively identify your pain-points and solve problems, help you find and enjoy our premium product experiences and offerings, and ultimately make sure you’re getting the most of your audio experience — all while continuing to be the brand you know and love.”

What Spotify teaches us about good customer service:

You may not be in a position to run specialist support channels or churn out tons of educational content. However, you can apply the same principles on a smaller scale. You might add some FAQs to your website, for example, or share helpful tips via email on a monthly basis. 

3. Uber Eats

Uber Eats provides a great example of how responsive customer service can transform the customer experience. 

From the moment you place an order via the Uber Eats app, you’re given clear expectations as to when your order should arrive, followed by regular status updates throughout. And, if you need to, you can quickly get in touch with your courier via the in-app chat function. 

The whole experience is easy, convenient, and transparent. You feel reassured throughout, knowing that prompt support is literally just a click away. 

What Uber Eats teaches us about good customer service:

The importance of responsive and timely communication cannot be overstated. You don’t need to be available for 24/7 live chat, but do make your support accessible and convenient. This takes us back to our very first strategy: rather than spreading yourself thin over too many channels, provide top-quality, Uber-Eats-level service on just one or two. 

Key takeaways and next steps 

You can’t run a successful business without good customer service. Get it right and you’ll build a positive brand reputation, foster long-term customer loyalty, and drive revenue

Get it wrong and you’ll lose out on repeat business, struggle to attract new customers, and ultimately harm your chances of long-term success. 

Are you ready to deliver outstanding customer service? Here’s how to get started:

  • Take stock of your current customer service efforts. Which of the strategies we’ve outlined are you already implementing? Where are the biggest gaps in your customer service right now? What areas do you most want to focus on? To help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your existing customer service, look at how to do a SWOT analysis for your small business.

  • Cut down before you level up. Before you implement any new strategies, shut down the channels and initiatives that aren’t working for you right now. This will enable you to focus your efforts and prioritise quality over quantity.

  • Improve your customer service one step at a time. In this post, we shared 10 actionable strategies — but don’t try to apply them all at once. Start with just two or three that you believe will have the greatest impact on your business and work your way up from there. 

And remember: good customer service is an ongoing commitment. Stay connected with your customers, listen to their feedback, and continuously optimise your efforts for meaningful, long-term impact.

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