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By Andrew Field

Itís not enough for your business to simply dole out goods and services to thrive in todayís marketplace. Successful organizations stir in added value by ensuring their customersí interactions go beyond filling a need to being downright memorable. Like a great dining experience, the goal is to create a remarkable interaction, an experience so good that a customer canít help but tell a friend about it.

The recipe for success boils down to four ingredients that can help any small business deliver a stand-out experience. The key is catering to whatís most important to your customers and employees.

Hereís the recipe: First, keep your eyes open for good ideas from unexpected sources. Second, take care of your customers by having the best people and processes in place to serve them. Third, create a great work environment for your employees. Finally, blend optimism with pragmatism.

Good Ideas from Unexpected Sources: Obstacles can often lead to your best ideas. Listening to client grumblings is a wonderful way to learn of improvement areas. Loyal customers will be quick to mention ways that their lives can be improved. Donít make the mistake of ignoring these customer comments. Take action. Whenever you can find a way to take the hassles out of someoneís life, youíre on to something.

Your Customers Deserve Only the Best: When you get to the point where you canít be the one talking to your customers anymore, donít skimp on who you hire to do it for you. Take the time to find, hire and train the best, and your customers will reward you with their loyalty.

Empower your new employees through adequate training so that they are prepared to proactively handle customersí needs from start to finish. Most training involves an employee handbook, some customer service tips and a pat on the back. Really preparing employees to add value to the customerís experience is more difficult and costs more time and money. Even a basic training program that focuses on your companyís philosophy and culture, and teaches employees to wrap customer service into an experience representative of that culture, will start your new hires in the right direction.

Setting employees up for success is only the first step. Keeping a pulse on the customer experience, and specifically how employees are delivering that experience, is essential to maintaining a happy customer base. Act swiftly when you discover an employee violating your core values and compromising your brand.

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Andrew S. Field is the President and CEO of PrintingForLess.
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