Pat your back. You not only have customers, but you also have return customers. Most people would call that a successful business. And I don’t disagree.

The more important question is, what do you do to make sure that continues to happen? How do we continue to create excited customers who don’t migrate toward the bargain-priced option in the industry?

I believe the answer is simple: you become what is called “customer-centric.” You put the customer first and strive to always create a positive experience for them.

The more important question is, how do you do that. How do you create that positive experience that prompts customers not only to come back but share with others how unique their experience was with you? Said in another way, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Here are seven ways you can wow your customers with your level of service. Does your company deliver on all seven?

Offer Live Phone Support

Nothing diminishes a customer’s feeling of importance faster than being directed to a virtual receptionist or voicemail. Hire someone to answer phones – and hire a team if your call volume necessitates it. If you have a voicemail box for evening hours or overflow, make sure your message tells customers you will return their call within a single business day. And do so.

Offer Online Resources and Fast Responses

Does your website have information that customers can use to solve many of their problems? Endeavor to provide resources for customers who would instead not call or miss the customer service hours. (Some people have jobs that prevent them from calling about personal matters during office hours.) As with phone calls, you should also respond to web inquiries and e-mails within one day. Likewise, include language on your website or e-mail auto-response that tells the customer you will respond promptly. Because when you are prompt, you say to the customer, “You are important to me.” This is yet another way to stand out from the competition.

Exhibit Excellent Listening Skills

Does your customer service team have training in listening to the customer? Do they listen more than talk? Can they summarize the customer’s priorities – in some cases even repeating them back to the customer – by the end of the call? When companies demonstrate that they listen, customers notice and come back for more. Make sure your company stands out as one that listens. And when appropriate, take the input to create a better product.

Deliver on Promises

If your team has agreed to do something, make sure that happens, allowing exceptions for emergencies only. Customers remember and value companies that deliver on their promises.

Address Complaints Promptly

Equip your team in advance to tackle customer complaints so that if a customer has something negative to say, your team is permitted to address it immediately. Some companies will give their customer service team a budget or a series of options that each representative can offer unsatisfied customers without seeking approval. Imagine how many angered customers would convert to exuberant advertisements for your company if you could make them feel that you not only heard them, but you resolved their issue promptly: “I’m so sorry to hear that, Mr. Smith. You are an important customer of ours. If I sent a replacement out to you today, would that completely address the situation?”

Focus on the Long Term

It’s tempting for salespeople and representatives to try to upsell clients. However, this can often be distasteful in a customer service situation. Customer service representatives should remember that the goal is to have a pleased long-term client, not necessarily the biggest sale upfront. If you have sales goals for your customer service team, consider whether you are doing more harm than good. In most cases, customer service should be focused on what the customer needs – how you can tailor a solution for them – and not trying to sell them something more than they need.

Eliminate Excuses

Customer service representatives should also be sure never to mention excuses. “We’ve been super busy” or “We are short-staffed” should not be in their vocabulary. Customers won’t understand, and they shouldn’t be expected to. Focus on hearing the customer’s perceived problem and offering a solution.

To truly experience what your customers are experiencing, I encourage you to become one. Reach out to your customer service and see how the transaction feels. Are all seven aspects of customer service delivered flawlessly? Now try your competitor. Which one delivered an experience that wowed you?

Now, Go Forth and Conquer!