Six essentials of exceptional service

Entities from multi-million dollar corporations to mom-and-pop businesses freely toss around the phrase customer service. But all too often, the promise of exceptional service is an empty one.

Customer service includes everything from greeting a customer and thanking her for her business to delivering what you promise and doing whatever it takes to satisfy the customer. Providing your customers with exceptional service will give you and your organization a competitive edge by increasing customer loyalty.

The following six basic principles of customer service, if mastered, will help you succeed as a small business owner.

1) Feel good about yourself. We tend to live in a negative world and to think negatively. It’s critical that you feel good about yourself, that you are confident, enthusiastic and positive. Each of us is responsible for how we feel about ourselves. You must believe in yourself, concentrate on your strengths, and recognize the importance of your role. Use affirmations and visualization. Read books on self-improvement and strive to be the best you can be. See yourself as you can be, not as you are.

2) Be courteous. It takes no more time to be nice and polite than it does to be rude. Every patient wants to feel important to you and your organization. Treat them with courtesy and respect. When you do, they will return to you time and time again.

3) Give positive communication. Smile, call patients by name, and give specific, genuine, sincere and timely feedback. When you communicate positively, you form a connection with the customer that says, ‘I am pleased that you patronize my practice, I value you, and I am here to ensure your needs are met."

4) Perform. Patients have the right to demand performance. They aren’t interested in your problems and excuses; they want you to take care of them. You can be polite and courteous but, if you don’t do what you say you will do, you will not meet the standards of good customer service. If you say you’ll call a patient on Tuesday, do it. Do what you say you will do -- and do it with speed and accuracy. 

5) Listen carefully. Listen to the patient, then clarify what he has said by repeating it.  For example: “Ted, let me repeat what you said so I’m sure I’m on the right track.”  Ask questions, get involved, and show that you 

6) Learn and grow in your job. If a patient asks you to explain the difference between options A and B, she’s asking you to provide more than the difference in price. Study your organization’s offerings -- as well as those of your competitors -- so that you can provide your customers with the information they need to make a purchase decision.

These six principles might appear to be common sense, but common sense seems to be in short supply these days. If you focus on these principles, these fundamentals of customer service, you will keep your current customers and attract new customers.

John Tschohl, an international service strategist and speaker, is founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis. He has written several books on customer service, including Loyal for Life, e-Service, The Customer is Boss, Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, Ca$hing In and Empowerment: A Way of Life. John’s bimonthly strategic newsletter is available online at no charge. Visit and