When you started your business, you had a particular idea about the kind of place you wanted it to be.

You knew what products or services you’d be offering, how you’d spread the word and how you’d treat your customers when they did come through the door — but since you put out the “Open” sign, did you stop to ask those customers what they wanted? Although business owners do their very best to anticipate their customers’ needs, sometimes they fall short because they don’t think to ask for feedback.

What Do Customers Want?

Even if you’ve not yet asked that vital question, American Express did in their 2014 Global Customer Service Barometer. Customers answered, shouting their needs loud and clear. When asked to rank the factors that were most important to customers when they were looking to choose a company to do business with, several things stood out.

First, and not surprisingly, customers want to get a good value for the price they pay — 51 percent said this was the most important factor for them. The second-most important factor, customers say, is “excellent customer service.” Convenience ranked dead last in this survey. It can be challenging to increase the value you provide your customers in numbers alone, but improving your customer service level is a much more simple thing.

If you feel like you’re always overworked, stretched too thin or are constantly interrupted by the phone, there’s a good chance that your customers can feel it, too. Those callers who are trying to reach you will detect the irritation in your voice and the people in front of you will also see just how frustrated you are. There’s a simple solution, though: hiring a telephone answering service.

3 Ways an Answering Service Can Improve Customer Service

You might be shocked at just how much partnering with an answering service can do for your business — especially when it comes to customer service.

Here are just three ways they can turn your customers into loyal fans:

Never missing a phone call. When the phone rings and rings, it doesn’t just drive you crazy, it also frustrates your callers. When you hire an answering service, the phone is picked quickly by a friendly and well-trained customer service expert who can help your callers with common questions, take messages or schedule appointments, depending on what’s needed.

Freeing you up to service in-store customers. Having an answering service to pick up the phone when you’re working the sales floor or handling appointments is a very freeing thing. Instead of having to worry that the phone may ring at any time, you’re free to focus on your customers and their needs.

Providing emergency assistance. Doctors, lawyers, contractors, real estate professionals and other business owners are expected to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s impossible for a small operation to meet this expectation by itself, but with the help of an answering service you can extend your reach exponentially.

Instead of handling all late night calls yourself, your answering service can determine which calls are actual emergencies and hand them off accordingly. Instead of spending all your down time thinking about work, you can relax a little — and come back even better the next day.

So when it comes to your customers, you might have not asked them directly what they want yet, but when you do it’s likely you’ll find that good customer service is at the top of their wish lists. Even a small business can up their game significantly by partnering with an answering service — after all, happy customers are the heart of your business.