My husband, Dave, and I were on a mission to find golf shirts in mid-August. We shopped the usual big-box stores and then made a side trip to the local Land’s End, where we found just what we needed. While waiting our turn to check out, I spotted a quote by Land’s End founder Gary Comer on the wall behind the registers that read, “Take care of the customer, take care of the employee, and the rest will take care of itself.” The company’s reputation for excellent service starts with that message.

Back in the 1900s, three pioneering retailers, Marshall Field, John Wanamaker, and Harry Gordon Selfridge, trained their employees with the mantra, “Right or wrong, the customer is always right.” These businessmen were all about making their customers feel valued and appreciated. Their mantra summed up the importance and necessity of placing the customer’s happiness above everything.

John Wanamaker worked at Marshall Field’s for over 20 years, during which time he adopted Field’s theory that customer service is the most important part of being in business. When he started his own company, he told his employees, “When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.”

Back then, these retailers — and others who followed their example — treated their customers as guests, whether or not they left without buying anything. Today, most retailers, with new technology and customer expectations, have established customer service rules that mimic the big three of the past, and are working hard to ensure that their customers’ needs and expectations are not only met, but exceeded.

Today’s important also businesspeople share customer service ideologies from those three pioneers. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, believes in the importance of customer service. He has said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job everyday to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Especially now, when customers have so many choices, companies should pay special attention to creating positive shopping experiences that show off the greatest strengths of the business. Quick order processing and delivery seem to be at the top of the service chain. Focusing on customer relationships and serving them with courtesy and honesty play a huge role in how the client feels about shopping with a business.

Sam Walton, founder of Walmart said, “There is only one boss — the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

I have been evaluating my own customer service experiences for years. I’m reminded that dissatisfied customers often tell many people about their experience, and now with social media it’s easier than ever to share experiences — quickly — at the touch of a keyboard or tap of a smartphone.

In order to prevent your own customer service mistakes, here are some suggestions from experts:

  • Give customers something worth talking about. Go the extra mile evey time and add value to customer experiences.
  • Educate customers. Teach them what they need to know about the company’s products and services.
  • Give incentives. Offer to deliver their order, and give special consideration when they bring other customers in.
  • Remember rule No. 1: “The customer is always right.” When positively sure the customer is not right, refer to rule number one in the way the situation is handled.
  • Make all selling situations personal. Some internet companies forget that a credit card number is actually tied to a real live person with opinions.
  • Put the needs of the customer ahead of the needs of the company, so the company will always have customers.
  • Hire good people who can provide the best service. The front-line team speaks volumes about the company. From the person who answers the phone to the person who takes orders at the counter to the person who represents the company “on the road” — front-line people ARE the company.

Exceptional customer service doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Offer employee training that includes everything from how to answer phones to being empowered to help customers. Teach employees that the first person to learn about a customer’s needs is responsible to follow through and see that the need is met.

Macy’s department store had the motto, “Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer.” I’d say that’s a key to great customer caring!