Trust is the essential element for business success. When customers trust you, they will keep doing business with you, they will post positive reviews on and elsewhere, and they will send other customers your way.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends that if you don’t already have an internal complaint-handling protocol, you develop one in writing, train your employees to use it and be consistent in its use. Be sure you comply with the law. Training about the program might help employees spot and avoid a customer concern before it escalates into a formal dispute, finds its way to BBB or goes viral.

The key to good customer service is an honest and friendly attitude towards the customer. Pay attention to workplace stresses (conditions such as temperature, light, noise, access to adequate information, etc.) that affect your employees; do your best to make it easier for them to serve your customers politely.

Show that you’re willing to help solve the customer’s problem, even if you don’t agree with what the customer says. These practices can help you and your employees have a positive attitude with benefits for your bottom line.

Listen to the customer. If you are talking, you aren’t listening. Listen actively, to understand the main points and show that you hear what is being said.

Don’t run away from anger, and don’t respond with anger. Say you are sorry that something made the customer unhappy and offer to help solve the problem.

Make sure you understand the customer’s complaint. Summarize what you think you heard, and ask the customer if that is what s/he means.

Ask the customer to tell you exactly what kind of solution he or she wants. Be friendly and sympathetic.

Offer some kind of solution. If you can’t offer everything the customer wants, try to provide a solution that will make the customer feel better about your business.

Make the customer feel important. Always thank the customer for doing business with you.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. She can be reached at 410-347-3990 and [email protected].