Owning a business can be grueling, especially when you’re only lightly staffed.

When you have to try to focus on your work and still answer the phone or everyone takes turns because you lack dedicated telephone staff, customer service can suffer significantly. Instead of turning potential customers off, you need to focus more closely on the customer service you give your callers.

Not everyone is a natural people pleaser, but it’s not impossible to delight customers when it comes down to it — often all they want is to be heard.

Here are some tips for creating better customer service:

  1. Put yourself in your callers’ shoes. There’s no better way to understand your callers than to imagine you’re in the same situation they are. If they’re snippy, maybe they’ve experienced bad customer service from similar companies; if they’re guarded, they may have been promised a lot in the past and been let down. Try to consider how they may be feeling before reacting to emotional states that likely have nothing to do with you.
  1. Ask probing questions. Getting to the bottom of the problem faster is a great way to make your customers happier. They want their problems solved quickly so they can go on with their day, so have an intimate knowledge of your product or service before you even open the door. According to the American Express 2014 Global Customer Service Barometer, customers are happiest when a knowledgeable staff member gives them satisfactory answers (86 percent of those surveyed) or will readily connect them to someone who can (78 percent).
  1. Always double check. Good news or bad, always double check your facts. If a caller is looking for a particular item, don’t tell them that it’s in stock if you’re not sure — be sure. Customers are understandably frustrated when they discover that they’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to solve a problem only to have to start again. These are the kinds of stories that they will share with an average of 21 of their friends, according to American Express.
  1. Partner with an answering service company. When the calls keep coming and you can’t give up your whole day to answering them, it’s time to call in the pros. An answering service partner will ensure that each and every caller gets the personal attention he or she deserves, freeing you to do the work that keeps them calling. Answering services can provide a range of services, from appointment scheduling to overflow, so you can choose the services that are right for your business and callers.

A successful business starts with your product or service and continues with excellent customer service. If your customers feel like they’re not valued, they’re likely to walk, seeking refuge with your competition — this is the worst thing that can happen to a business. Instead, embrace a customer-focused culture, starting with your phone line. Use that telephone as a chance to make a good first impression and your customer base will grow rapidly.