By Jayme Cook

In the 2017 State of Small Business Report, more than 40 percent of businesses polled said that improving the customer experience was at the top of their agenda this year. So how does one go about doing that? For small business owners, the secret to success might seem like a complex formula at times, when in fact, simplicity is key. Behind every successful small business is a happy customer, and a happy customer is one well-served. For small business owners looking to make customers happy this year, here are three simple tools and techniques to help any small business deliver responsive and streamlined customer service.

1. Optimize Self-service

Considered the simplest, fastest and most cost-efficient means of customer service, self-service through company web page or online knowledge base is ideal not just for small business bottom lines, but also for customers. 91 percent of modern customers said they would use an online knowledge base if a company offered one and if that database was easy to use. When customers have questions or issues they want immediate answers and solutions. The self-service hub is there to offer those solutions at the customer’s convenience. To guarantee that help is easily accessible, be sure to highlight a Troubleshooting or FAQ page that is not difficult to navigate and is easy to understand. Offering customers a place to go to take care of business themselves is your first line of defense in quality customer care.

2. Maintain a Toll-free Number

As ideal as self-service may be, some issues simply cannot be resolved without personal assistance. And though the modern consumer may initially shy from speaking to a representative, having a number available to call creates trust and reassurance. Particularly important for those businesses that conduct business outside their base locales, a toll-free number is paramount in keeping customers happy. Things break, items are lost in the mail, natural and personal disasters sometimes befall us all. Offering your customers a phone number to call for assistance in these times shows them that you care.

3. Use a Plugin or Chat Box

A plugin is a kind of software that focuses specific content. With a plugin, a website may offer additional content, like the option to download Adobe Flashplayer in order to view a video, or it can enable the option to chat. Businesses can have at the ready any plugin that their clientele may need to use or navigate their websites, as well as offer immediate assistance for any issues. Through the chat box, or live chat, customers type out their messages and send them to the support team and a representative can reply. It’s instant messaging (IM) for businesses. IM customer service can feel less invasive than a phone call for the customer — he or she is still reaching out to the business when it’s convenient for him or her — but it is more interactive than simply navigating a Help page. For many users, it is the perfect balance of involvement.

If the success of a business depends on the happiness of its customers, those customers had better feel they are well-supported and well-serviced. These tools are sure to better streamline your small business’s customer service and keep your clientele smiling.

Jayme Cook is a writer and English professor living in Phoenix. She enjoys punctuation marks, sashimi and the smell of wet paint. Dislikes: people who cut in line.