The customer experience is one of the keys to business success. In some industries, it can mean the difference between success and failure.

According to recent research by a major credit card issuer, 90% of Americans consider quality of customer service as they decide whether they want to do business with a company. Another study done by HubSpot, notes that 93% of customers who get great service from a business are likely to come back and buy again.

Still, great service remains rare. Customers who want help are often made to feel like they are inconveniencing a business. Some businesses disregard the customer experience, believing that consumers will buy largely on price or a trusted name, as if we were still in the era of dry goods stores and green stamp booklets.

Great customer service is about solving problems and meeting needs. The essentials are simply stated: a quick response, superior communication, putting the customer first. And yet, all this is often absent. As a first step to making these essentials the norm at your company, consider the following questions.   

Is your business truly customer focused? Is it evolving in response to customer needs? Are you thinking of your customers and the employees in close contact with them when you think about your brand?

Paradoxically, being a customer-focused business means focusing on the experiences of your employees as well as the people who purchase your products or services. Your employees must adopt the mindset that they are helpers, problem-solvers for a community of people. They come to work each day to “do good,” and they are the “experts” when it comes to this kind of help; they excel at responding to a specific need.

One of the keys to instilling this mindset is to communicate the values, purpose, and mission of your business. What role does your company play in people’s lives, in the community it serves? What kind of experience should your customers have? Your employees need to hear these things from you.  

What kind of community are you creating? Think of your customers and workers as members of the community created around your business. Ask your customers for their opinions of your products or services; involve them strongly in your brand’s evolution and direction. Doing the same with your workers not only gives them a say, but it is also a step toward becoming leaders themselves.

What degree of customer service can your employees deliver? Do they have the authority to give a dissatisfied customer a free product, a full refund, or a unique accommodation? If not, maybe they should be empowered with some of these options. They might just change that unhappy customer into a raving fan.

Are you constantly listening to your clients or customers? If you wonder how things might change in your industry, start by talking to the people who might want to see some change: the consumers. Gather steady feedback from your clients or customers to learn what they want and need now, as opposed to what they wanted and needed years ago when you opened your doors. What you learn may lead you to revise your business plan or direction, and the input will refine the way that your company responds to your customers.