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June 18, 2018

Small Business Advice

How to achieve great customer service

"Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer." ~ Macy's Motto

Jerry Osteryoung | 11/11/2012

I am often asked how you achieve great customer service in a business. This is a fair question, because though customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shoppers provide very effective ways of measuring the success of the existing customer experience, they do not tell us how to create great customer service in the first place.

Providing great customer service is not as simple as saying “exceed customer expectations.” Rather, it involves a series of interactions from the moment the customer first encounters your business until the time he or she leaves.

Too often businesses define the success of their customer service based on the experience created by only one person in the business, ignoring all other interactions. For instance, medical doctors frequently think they give excellent patient service but completely forget about all the other touch points from the front office staff to the billing department.

For another example, I frequently see businesses provide a great sales experience only to fail on the last impression (e.g. late delivery) and destroy all the good they created in the earlier stages of the interaction.

I advise each business I work with to define all of their customer touch points from the first point of contact until the service event is complete. These can include a customer’s phone call, the condition of your restrooms, the cleanliness of your windows, the way you welcome a returning customer and the list goes on. Obviously, there can be many of these touch points and they each must be considered carefully.

For example, consider the interaction between a clerk and a customer. Looking at the overall experience is not nearly enough. Rather, you need to break it down and go through each part of the transaction, evaluating how effective it was. How did the clerk communicate with the customer? How friendly were they? If it was a returning customer, how quickly did the clerk recognize them? Did the clerk have a smile on his or her face? Did they use the customer’s name and make them feel as though they were the most important person?

This list of questions could go on and on and vary based on the position, but the point I am trying to make is that customer service must be thought of as a series of interrelated processes. Great customer service is achieved by ensuring that each of these points is identified and measured for success.

Now go out and make sure that you identify each customer touch point and establish a plan of evaluating the service you provide at every one.

You can do this!

Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at

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