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The UPS Store, Chick-fil-A, REI, Trader Joe's, Warby Parker: What do all these companies have in common? They are renowned for their exceptional customer service. Whether it’s through customer interactions, speedy delivery, product availability or a quick resolution to problems, providing strong service can have customers coming back over and over.  

So why don’t more businesses follow suit?  

Too often, executives discredit the benefits of strong customer service programs and instead look at them as cost centers. In reality, ramping up customer service programs will increase profitability, provide a positive company image, attract and retain customers, and help separate the company from the growing competition in the marketplace.  

But how can distributors ensure that they're offering the customer service they ought to, without breaking the bank? There are some very simple techniques that can make all the difference. 

Train teams to smile. When a customer is greeted with a smiling face, they tend to feel welcomed. They know this person is approachable and it lays the groundwork for the conversation. Even on the phone, a smile can be heard in a person's tone, which puts customers at ease and creates a positive interaction.  

Stress positivity and friendliness when working with customers. Not only will this help create better communication between customers and staff, but keeping a positive attitude will help build rapport and establish credibility. It will also help staff manage difficult scenarios or complaints with poise and expertise. It’s human instinct to respond positively to someone who exudes friendliness. 

Respond promptly. Most businesses have a policy for one-hour response times, but experts suggest shortening that to meet customer expectations. Even if the response is that more time is needed to find a resolution, prompt communication can mean all the difference to maintaining customer loyalty.  

Listen to customers. Be empathetic and admit mistakes. Personalize interactions and use customers’ first names. Say thank you — a simple courtesy that can go a long way.  

These are just some of the many ways to ramp up customer service offerings. Check out the cover story to learn whether artificial intelligence can help, how product awareness can go a long way, and more.