As simple as it sounds, when it comes to running a small business, customer service can make or break your company.

While telecommunications giants can get away with badgering customers or being downright rude, when your profit margins are thin and access to capital isn’t a phone call away, entrepreneurs cannot afford to gloss over the act of making clients happy.

When it comes to providing great customer service, a bad impression can ruin any goodwill a business may have, causing customers to take their business elsewhere. Great service can differentiate your businesses from the competition – even if those competitors are lower in price.

If you want your business to grow, satisfying customers should be part of your long-term strategy. And when it comes to customer service, the most essential aspect is communication. Here are six tips to help you build a strong relationship with your clients through communication:

1. Be responsive

Nothing is worse than sending a business a question without getting a response. Customers feel disrespected, ignored and can unfortunately take something like that personally.  

Besides offending an interested (or even long-term) client with a lack of (or delayed) response, there is a correlation between the time it takes to respond to a customer and the probability the customer will contact someone else to hire (or churn).

To mitigate this risk, on your website or social media presence, tell customers when they can expect a response within a certain timeframe. Give interested parties some context or an expectation as to when you will be able to respond – and then keep to that commitment. If you happen to be free when the person reaches out, then your immediate response will be a nice surprise.

As your business grows from just you to more employees, you can scale your staff to have more customer support roles, which will ensure a shortened response time.

2. Brevity is the source of wit (and customer satisfaction)

While you should be thorough and complete with your responses, aim to be as direct and brief as possible. That goes for the medium through which you are communicating, as well as the substance of your communication.

Email is not always the best way to respond. Most times if clients have questions or concerns, they want an immediate response. The do not want to have to refresh their inbox on their phone to check if you have (or someone on your team has) responded yet. They want to be notified instantly. Text message can enable you to supply that quick, direct response to ensure customer satisfaction.

Responses should also be structured with a single theme in mind: to the point. There is not a need for lengthy replies, but more so just a few sentences addressing the crux of the client’s question or concern. If you feel supporting information is necessary, provide that afterwards in a separate paragraph, so they can look at it if they have the time.

Getting right to the root of the problem will save both you and your customers time and aggravation.

3. Encourage group engagement

Social media sites are not just for friendly connections and advertising. They can actually allow you to build scalable customer support models.

Letting inquiring customer tap into networks of current customers to help them get their questions answered – in real time or by looking through past threads – can save you enormous amounts of time; while also delivering great customer service.

Encouraging this group type of engagement does not have to be elaborate. Facebook Groups can allow your business to grow an active customer base within each group, and directing inquiring customers to the platform to ask the community. It might surprise you, but some of your happiest clients can actually be your biggest supporters when it comes to converting new clients.

Additionally, you can also support commenting threads on your business’ website as a next-level FAQ section to allow clients to post and also consume relevant information that could help them.

4. An intuitive, accessible way to ask questions

Having you or your staff “ready” to respond to inquiring customer service inquiries is just part of the equation. The other is giving your client an incredibly easy way to ask their questions.

If clients struggle to find the “right” contact information as to who to ask their question to, they will get annoyed quickly. If the client can’t easily look back at the recent questions they have asked, that can cause uncertainty on their end as they might not be 100% sure all the questions they had posed got adequately answered.

There are companies that are known for making it difficult to contact their customer service departments – don’t fall into that trap.

Make your phone number, email or however the best way it is to reach the appropriate person front and center at all time.

5. Limit the transfers

A report from the Harvard Business Review found that customers were more satisfied and more likely to be loyal to a company if the business limited the number of touchpoints the customer went through.

That means limiting the number of transfers or hand-offs to other internal team members or departments. For young companies (under 1-10 employees) especially, all team members should be available to answer customer questions. This ensures ultimate client satisfaction as no matter who the client ends up reaching out to, they will be satisfied. In addition, this ensures that your team members are all on the same page as to the services you offer – knowing your business inside and out.

6. Show your personality

Try not to read from a script. You’ll get to scripts when you become a 100+ person company.

Many times customers forget that your company is made up of a group of individuals when they are reaching out to your business. They can often consider a business a commodity without any human element to it. The more you show your client that you are in fact a person and your team members are real people, that can add a huge impact.

A good sense of humor, being empathetic to the client and asking the customer questions about themselves can all build a human connection with inquiring clients. Your business will stick out in their minds and will develop goodwill that no other competing business will have.

Mastering Service Drives Growth

Customer service is an art form. And what works for a small business may not work as your business expands.

However, as you’re growing, it is crucial to note that great customer service is not a short-term win. The clients you win over with your service, many times become your biggest cheerleaders to help you grow your company to where it needs to go.

Take customer service seriously, grow your business and never stop improving the way your treat your clients – both old and new.