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updated 3/17/2013 11:17:17 AM ET 2013-03-17T15:17:17

Principles of customer service are nice, but you need to put those principles into action with everything you do and say.

There are certain "magic words" that customers wants to hear from you and your staff.

Make sure your employees understand the importance of these key words:

"How can I help?" Customers want the opportunity to explain in detail what they want and need. Too often, business owners feel the desire or the obligation to guess what customers need rather than carefully listening first. By asking how you can help, you begin the dialogue on a positive note. (You are "helping," not "selling.") And by using an open-ended question, you invite discussion.

"I can solve that problem." Most customers, especially B2B customers, are looking to buy solutions. They appreciate answers in a language they can understand.

"I don't know, but I'll find out." When confronted with a truly difficult question that requires research on your part, admit it. Few things ruin your credibility faster than trying to answer a question when you are unaware of the facts. Savvy buyers may test you with a question they know you can’t answer, and then just sit quietly while you struggle to fake an answer. An honest reply enhances your integrity.

"I will take responsibility." Tell your customers you realize it's your responsibility to ensure a satisfactory outcome to the transaction. Assure the customer you know what she expects and will deliver the product or service at the agreed-upon price. There will be no unexpected expenses or changes required to solve the problem.

"I will keep you updated." Even if your business is a cash-and-carry operation, it probably requires coordinating and scheduling numerous events. Assure your customers they will be advised of the status of these events. The longer your lead time, the more important it is. The vendors that customers trust the most are those that keep them apprised of the situation, whether the news is good or bad.

"I will deliver on time." A due date that has been agreed upon is a promise that must be kept. "Close" does not count.

"Monday means Monday." The first week in July means the first week in July, even though it contains a national holiday. Your clients are waiting to hear you say, "I will deliver on time." The supplier who consistently does so is a rarity and well-remembered.

"It will be just what you ordered." It will not be "similar to," and it will not be "better than" what was ordered. It will be exactly what was ordered. Even if you believe a substitute would be in the client's best interests, that’s a topic for discussion, not something you decide on your own. Your customers may not know (or be at liberty to explain) all the ramifications of the purchase.

"The job will be complete." Assure the customer there will be no waiting for a final piece or a last document. Never say you will be finished "except for …"

"I appreciate your business." This means more than a simple "Thanks for the order." Genuine appreciation involves follow-up calls, offering to answer questions, making sure everything is performing satisfactorily, and ascertaining that the original problem has been solved.

Neglecting any of these steps conveys the impression that you were interested in the person only until the sale was made. This leaves the buyer feeling deceived and used, and creates ill will and negative advertising from the company.

Sincerely proving you care about your customers leads to recommendations … and repeat sales.

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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