You know that feeling you get when you know you've screwed up in your business

Now, here's the one incident I will always remember. It was back in 2008 when the recession hit hard. Right as we were scrambling to get things off the ground, one of my employees completely missed a customer's two hour appointment window. Our customer was fuming mad -- and we knew that a spoken apology just wouldn't cut it

I knew It was a matter of time before that angry customer would go online and complain about how shitty we were. And we couldn't afford any negative reviews, being a young business that still needs to build a lot of trust with our customers.

So, I grabbed my car keys and left the office. I picked up a Starbucks gift card, bought a bouquet of flowers, and arrived at the customer's doorstep.

The customer was completely dumbstruck at me showing up out of the blue. 

"Hi, I'm Tommy Mello, the owner of A1 Garage. I'm so sorry that we missed the appointment you booked with us -- and I hope this gift card and the flowers make up for it. If you give us a second chance, I'll call one of our best technicians now to fix your problem."

The incident eventually made its way to a regional newspaper. Some people who read about it dismissed it as a PR stunt. But they are missing the point.

The thing is, every business -- and its CEO -- should make customer service a priority. By doing so, you stand to win your customers' trust and their loyalty.

Other top entrepreneurs do the same thing too. Even someone as busy as Elon Musk understands the importance of delivering great customer service. After a customer reached out to him with a complaint via Twitter, Elon Musk and his team came up with a new policy which addressed the issue and rolled the new changes out within a highly impressive six days.  

So, where should you start to build great customer service in your business?

1. Be responsive to negative feedback.

Take it from me: we all screw up as entrepreneurs.But as long as you show your customer early on that you understand their frustration, and that you care about making it right, they'll forgive you. What you should do is, get back to them asap if they have any concerns or complaints. I personally get on the phone with unhappy customers (whenever I can) and do my best to resolve their issues. 

2. Don't skimp on your first impression.

First impressions are everything: you want to come across as being professional and therefore credible. In my business, we  make sure that our technicians arrive at our customer's houses looking sharp in company uniforms. Same goes with our company trucks -- they need to be spotless and be branded clearly with our company's name, logo, and contact information.

If you want to build a business that lasts, focus on customer service, which will help you keep your best customers longer, and even turn your unhappy customers into loyal fans. Sure, it won't bring in profit overnight, but it's what will keep your business sustainable in the long run. The question is, are you willing to make this investment?

Published on: Nov 3, 2017