Today's business world has gone beyond simply having a good product or service at a reasonable price. Social media has increased the importance of customer service, with 78 percent of online customers recommending the brand to a friend after having a great service experience.

What is the consequence of bad customer service? Recent research suggests that it costs companies $338.5 billion a year in lost revenues. 86 percent of customers quit doing business with a brand due to bad customer service. It costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one. Add to this that loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

If customer service was not a priority before, it will be now. This of course begs the question: How do I improve my customer service?

Create the experience

The customer service experience starts from the moment they walk in the door. While rushing to greet them is not realistic, taking a moment to smile, wave or say hello creates a warm, welcoming environment that lets your customers know you are there to help them.

While you do not want to hover around customers, be attentive to their needs and offer help if it looks like it is needed. Use a positive spin on your conversation, saying things like, "We do not have that model in stock, however I would recommend considering this model, which is very similar," instead of, "Sorry, we don't have that."

This becomes more challenging when something has gone wrong. Instinctively, most people start explaining why it has gone wrong or how they understand what the customer is going through. Neither of these is a solution and often upsets the client further.

Clients want to be heard and for a solution to be offered, so deliver exactly that. Acknowledge the problem, apologize, then find a solution. Acknowledging the problem requires you to admit that you were wrong. A simple, "You're absolutely right, I'm sorry this has happened. How can I make this better?" will go a long way in not just addressing the immediate concern, but may also improve your product or service.

The solution may be as small as listening to the problem right up to offering to replace the product. Ideally, this will be done by the staff member who hears about the problem as having to explain the problem to multiple team members will upset the client further. For this to happen, you have to empower your staff.

Empower your staff

For your team to deliver excellent customer service, they need to be motivated and authorized to do what is required to make it right for the customer. Starting with the latter, this means your staff have the ability to offer to replace a product, refund the payment or to take 15 minutes to listen to the customer.

Giving them the ability to do this will not only make addressing complaints faster and the customer happier, but it will also give your employees ownership of the situation and make them feel important. This ties directly into their motivation.

Gen Yers and Gen Zers in particular are driven by intrinsic motivation, such as praise and the warm feeling they get from helping someone, as opposed to extrinsic motivation, like bonuses and public recognition. Taking the time to recognize the extra effort taken by a staff member will encourage them to do it again.

It's important to remember that your team members are your customers.

Lead by example

All too often business owners have a great idea or initiative, pushing it on to their front-line staff to implement while the owner continues on like they always have. Not only does this send mixed messages to the staff, but it also undermines the authenticity of the owner. For younger generations, who are looking for a leader and mentor to follow, this discrepancy will likely cause them to head for the door.

Lead by example and "walk the talk." This means getting down in the trenches, working beside your team and doing even the most boring or dirty tasks.

Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman's, is a shining example of this. Despite running a community of businesses that generate over $44 million in revenue, he can generally be found working at Zingerman's Roadhouse busing tables and pouring water. As he does this, he checks in with each table, making sure service is up to his high standards.