Your employees often are the first points of contact for your customers, and it's crucial that they are as dedicated to providing excellent service as you are. To make sure you and your staff are on the same page, consider the following:

  • Think quality, not quantity. When hiring, look for people who share your dedication to customer service. If you can’t find someone who cares as much as you do, it’s often better to leave the position unfilled. “I’d rather stay small and have a great reputation than be big and have a lousy reputation,” says Jack Willard, co-owner of Splash Pools & Spas, Daphne, Ala.
  • Be accessible. Encourage your employees to come to you if they don’t know the answer to a question rather than sending a customer away dissatisfied. “I don’t feel bad about people not knowing the answer, but I do feel bad about not having the answer for the customer,” says Jay Carswell, owner of Flamingo Pool Supply in Frederick, Md. “If I’m out of the store, I can always be reached by cell phone. It’s important that staff have access to me at all times.”
  • Make staffers learn from their mistakes. Rather than stepping in to rectify an error made by a staff member, ask the employee to follow up with the customer directly. “I make them go back and take care of the problem, apologize to the customer, or whatever it takes to square up the problem,” says Henry Pine, president of Accent Spas & Pools in Spring, Texas This helps the staff learn from its mistakes and reduces the incidence of future errors.
  • Be flexible. When you encourage employees to go the extra mile for the customer — such as staying late to finish a service call — accommodating their own scheduling needs goes a long way toward rewarding them. “If they need personal time, then I never hesitate if we can cover it,” Pine says. “Any time they ask, they get it.”
  • Reward excellence. Pine makes it a point of distributing merit bonuses when employees have done outstanding jobs — and not just during the holidays. This gives the staff an added incentive to provide excellent service. “They really appreciate it and show it by working when they need to,” Pine says.
  • By taking the time to cultivate your staff, you will have employees your customers come to trust, and even ask for personally.

    “I get customers who compliment each one of my staff members quite a bit,” Pine says. “They’re making an extra effort to let me know how much they like working with one of my people, which is always gratifying.”