Been Good So Far? Now, Be Better

Keeping the customer satisfied is the key to success. These suggestions will make that task a little easier

By now, better than two weeks after they were made, most entrepreneurs have a pretty good idea how closely they will be sticking to their New Year's Resolutions over the next 12 months. Doing OK so far? No backsliding? If that's the case and you're in the mood for a further dose of stiffened resolve, here are a few additional pledges suggested by the Better Business Bureau. More than burnishing your outfit's good name, the tips that follow should help to attract new customers, retain existing ones, and fatten the bottom line:

Assume full responsibility for the quality and performance of the product or service you sell. Avoid making promises in sales contracts, labels and promotions that you cannot keep. If you're selling online, take care to meet BBB standards for online business practices. The group maintains a Code of Online Business Practices.

Provide better customer service by appointing one person as a customer contact, in order to avoid giving customers the run-around when they call for information or to report a problem. Listen carefully to your customers, paying attention to what they say and what they don't say. Return calls and messages from customers as soon as possible.

Show up on time for a service call or appointment or notify the customer when you will be delayed. Promptly call the customer if the work and charges you are doing will exceed the price you estimated.

Promote your business regularly and consistently. If you want to attract new customers, you may want to make promotion a priority. Hire a marketing expert or take the time to create a marketing plan on your own and follow through with it. Make sure that your advertising is honest, accurate and honors the BBB's Code of Advertising.

Seize every opportunity to promote goodwill in the marketplace. Don't ignore customer complaints. Responding promptly retains customer loyalty and stops unresolved wrangles soiling your reputation. If your best efforts aren't satisfying the customer, contact your local BBB, which offers mediation and arbitration services.

By Karen E. Klein in Los Angeles

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.