By Rieva Lesonsky

Today I took my car to get a smog check—something I look forward to about as much as a root canal. And I was going to a new place, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. So imagine my surprise when I was greeted by one of the friendliest employees I’ve ever met. He was so funny, energetic and efficient, he made the whole experience enjoyable. (Imagine going into a car repair shop and having Emeril Lagasse help you. That’s what it was like.) I was stunned when I found out he wasn’t the business owner—that’s how strong his enthusiasm for the place was.

The experience got me thinking about how crucial the “people factor” is in business. Yet today, it seems most of what we read about small business success focuses on technology, social media, websites and other hot buzzwords. Yes, keeping up with change is important, but one thing that doesn’t change is the importance of customer service.

Are you giving your frontline employees what they need to deliver stellar service? Whether you answer yes or no can make or break your business success. Here are some factors to consider:

Training: Do your people get the training they need? Do you have an employee manual for how things are done? When you implement new technology or make changes to your procedures, do you make sure everyone is up to speed?

Equipment: Speaking of technology, it’s crucial to ensure your team has the tech tools they need to do the best possible job. For instance, if you have delivery drivers, are they still struggling with map books or do you provide them with GPS devices or apps? In the office, are your systems integrated and up-to-date so everyone is on the same page?

Recognition: That standout employee I mentioned at the smog-check shop may have been born enthusiastic and friendly, but if he hadn’t received any recognition for it at work, you bet his attitude would have changed (or he would have left for someplace where he was valued). Customer service is hard work, so reward and recognize your team for a job well done.

Empowerment: Customers are demanding and today, they want customized solutions. They don’t want to hear “That’s not our policy” or “You’ll need to speak to a manager.” Instead, empower your people to do whatever it takes (within reason, of course) to satisfy the customer. Then live up to your words by standing behind the employees’ decisions.