Facing a weaker holiday shopping season, many small retailers are staffing up to boost customer service and bring shoppers into their stores.

In a recent survey, 40 percent of 100 retail and service-sector business owners said they planned to hire as many as five extra workers for the holidays, according to RatePoint, a Massachusetts-based reputation management firm. The survey, which included both brick-and-mortar and Web-based business owners, didn't determine if the new hires were temporary or full-time.

According to RatePoint CMO Richard Turcott, small businesses can’t afford to scrimp on customer support, even as they search for ways to cut costs in an uncertain economy.

“We all have a tremendous focus on headcount right now, as we do for other costs and expenses for our businesses,” Turcott said. “But things like customer support and building a positive reputation online and offline -- that’s how you get word-of-mouth referrals and that’s what’s going to help a smart business survive through these economic slumps.”

More than 80 percent of survey respondents said business reputation affects their ability to attract and retain customers. Many said they will spend up to 10 hours this holiday season monitoring their store's reputation among customers.

Turcott said being responsive is one of the best ways to keep customers coming back.

“Show that there is someone behind the cloak,” Turcott said. “Pick up your phone and answer it and reply to your e-mails.”