Of course, you want to make your customers happy and keep them that way, but for some companies, walking the line between delighting a few customers and simply meeting the expectations of a lot of customers can be tricky.

There’s nothing more motivating than dollars and cents, though, so when American Express discovered that customers were willing to pay up to 14 percent more for excellent customer service, every business should have taken note.

Businesses big and small depend on their customers, and their customer service efforts, for their survival. If your efforts are still flatter than you’d hoped, here are four key customer service musts to put into action right away:

  1. Improve your communication skills company-wide. One of the biggest problems many companies suffer is a lack of dedication to communication. It might not be your fault — maybe you’re stretched way too thin and simply can’t handle all the customers who need you in the moment. If that’s the case, it’s time to get some extra help. Hiring an answering service, for example, can expand your reach dramatically and allow you to focus on customers in-store while your answering service partner helps your callers.
  1. Ask your customers if they’re happy with your solutions. Believe it or not, sometimes it makes a world of difference to simply ask a customer if they’re happy with the way you’re handling a problem. For example, if someone wants to return merchandise but doesn’t have a receipt, you might ask them if they’d be happy with store credit. This way, you get the customer involved in their own solutions, instead of simply forcing your store policies upon them when they may already be frustrated.
  1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. More likely than not, you’ve done business with companies that you’d like to forget. Poor customer service happens, but it’s far more likely when businesses fail to empathize with the customers needing help. Always provide enough manpower to ensure that customers get what they need, and ask those employees to take a walk in the customers’ shoes as they assess the situation. Being able to show your customers you can relate to them can go a long way in making them feel more confident in your customer service efforts.
  1. Anticipate customer needs and go beyond base expectations. Customer service shouldn’t be something you do grudgingly. Instead, it should be given willingly, and with some effort to see what the customer really needs before they do. Ask a lot of questions so you can fully understand the problem. Then you can not only address the situation in front of you, but you can also handle related problems that the customer might not have realized also needed solving.

Excellent customer service should be at the core of every business model, but it’s never too late to improve your efforts. Hiring more help, such as an answering service, really understanding your customers and making them a big part of their own solutions can go a long way to turn your acceptable customer service efforts into phenomenal ones.