Skip to main content

How to create and grow a customer service mindset in your business



As a small business owner, you are the face of your operation. You set the tone for your team, and you answer to your customer’s expectations. But between running a storefront and managing employees, you can’t physically be there all the time to greet guests with a smile. So how can you ensure that your team delivers the best customer service, no matter what the situation? 

According to Brian Batch, co-owner of Bird Bird Biscuit, navigating any customer interaction requires staying in a service mindset—constantly keeping the customer’s needs in mind, without judgment. It also requires hiring employees who are excited about your business and giving them the tools they need to succeed, so that they feel empowered to share their enthusiasm with customers.

No matter your approach, it’s important to build a culture of customer service on your team and within your operations. Below, five small business leaders share their strategy for instilling a customer service mindset—from hiring passionate employees and cultivating a friendly atmosphere to turning critical reviews into an opportunity to exceed expectations. 

Operate from a place of clarity, not judgment 

“When you’re having a really hard interaction with a guest or someone on your team, ask yourself, ‘How can I blow this person’s mind?’ That puts you in a place where you have the best opportunity to go through that situation to bring the best fruit. You’re thinking about serving that person. And when you’re in a service mindset, that’s the place where you’re not judging that person, and then you can navigate with clarity.” 

—Brian Batch, Bird Bird Biscuit 

Hire people who are passionate about your business

“We try to pick the people that love craft beer because if you come into the place and you wanna work there and you don’t love craft beer, you’re not gonna exactly have the greatest way of interacting with the bar regulars, talking about beer or giving them something good to drink.”

—Brandon Gardner, SoCo Taphouse

Encourage your team to have fun

“Our success as a business [is] their success. [Our employees] are out there earning tips all day long. They’re lifting boats for customers. They’re doing all the things to make the customer experience good. All of that stuff matters at the end of the day. If we’re not having a good time—if we’re not out there smiling, friendly, enjoying what we’re doing—we’re doing the wrong thing. I tell my staff, ‘If you don’t enjoy being here, don’t be here, because this is as good as it’s going to get for a summer job in Chicago.’”

—James Morro, Urban Kayaks 

Own up to your mistakes

“Things are going to go wrong. That’s a given. What really matters is how the business responds when things go wrong. And that’s what I think separates truly exceptional customer service from the average. Customers who’ve had the biggest customer service breakdown—a really horrific experience—when you have the opportunity to fix that and exceed their expectations, those customers are the ones that become the most loyal and fanatical.” 

—Alyssa Bayer, Milk + Honey Spa

Respond to critical feedback 

“They want to voice this concern because it’s not okay. And I’ll listen to them, and I’ll be like, ‘I’m taking action on this. I’m going to build a better company.’ Every time, I thank them for the 1-star review. This is how I grow. Without you bringing these mistakes to my attention, I would never know they are occurring. You’re a layer of accountability for me to build a better business.”

—Josh Campbell, Rescue Air Heating and Cooling

Tip: Responding to reviews, like Josh does, shows customers you care, and in the instance of a critical review, it lets them know that you’re working on improving the customer experience—plus it builds trust. In a recent survey commissioned by Yelp and conducted by Material, 56% of people surveyed said reading a business owner’s reply to a review made them trust that business more than if they hadn’t responded at all. 

Interviews by Emily Washcovick


These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear more from Emily and these business owners, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.

Did you find this post valuable?

Click on a star to rate it.

Since you found this post valuable...

Follow us on social media for more great business resources!

We're sorry you didn't find this post valuable.

How could we improve it?

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.

Business resources, delivered to your inbox

Get the latest blog content, info on virtual events, and the occasional freebie.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

By continuing, you agree to Yelp’s Terms of Service and acknowledge Yelp’s Privacy Policy.

[gravityform id="4" title="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_4' ><div id='gf_4' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div> <div class='gform_heading'> <span class='gform_description'></span> </div><form data-form-name='Newsletter Signup Popup' method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_4' id='gform_4' action='/businesses/behind-the-review-how-to-create-and-grow-a-customer-service-mindset-in-your-business/#gf_4' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_4' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_4_1" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible gf-email" data-field-class="gf-email" data-js-reload="field_4_1"><label class='gfield_label screen-reader-text' for='input_4_1' >youremail@address.com</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_4_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='youremail@address.com' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_4_2" class="gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_4_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_4_2' >Phone</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_2' id='input_4_2' type='text' value='' autocomplete='new-password'/></div><div class='gfield_description' id='gfield_description_4_2'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_4' class='gform_button button' value='Submit' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_4"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_4"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_4"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_4"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_4").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=4&amp;title=&amp;description=1&amp;tabindex=0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_4' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='4' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_4' value='WyJbXSIsImE0YjFiMmUxY2IxMWVhYTljM2FhNzdkODk4NDUzZmY0Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_4' id='gform_target_page_number_4' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_4' id='gform_source_page_number_4' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> </form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_4' id='gform_ajax_frame_4' title='This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.'></iframe> <script> gform.initializeOnLoaded( function() {gformInitSpinner( 4, 'https://blog.yelp.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_4').on('load',function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_4');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_4').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;var mt = parseInt(jQuery('html').css('margin-top'), 10) + parseInt(jQuery('body').css('margin-top'), 10) + 100;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').offset().top - mt); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_4').val();gformInitSpinner( 4, 'https://blog.yelp.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [4, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_4'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_4').offset().top - mt);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [4]);window['gf_submitting_4'] = false;wp.a11y.speak(jQuery('#gform_confirmation_message_4').text());}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_4').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [4, current_page]);} );} ); </script>
[gravityform id="4" title="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_4' ><div id='gf_4' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div> <div class='gform_heading'> <span class='gform_description'></span> </div><form data-form-name='Newsletter Signup Popup' method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_4' id='gform_4' action='/businesses/behind-the-review-how-to-create-and-grow-a-customer-service-mindset-in-your-business/#gf_4' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_4' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_4_1" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible gf-email" data-field-class="gf-email" data-js-reload="field_4_1"><label class='gfield_label screen-reader-text' for='input_4_1' >youremail@address.com</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_4_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='youremail@address.com' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_4_2" class="gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_4_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_4_2' >Email</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_2' id='input_4_2' type='text' value='' autocomplete='new-password'/></div><div class='gfield_description' id='gfield_description_4_2'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_4' class='gform_button button' value='Submit' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_4"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_4"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_4"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_4"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_4").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=4&amp;title=&amp;description=1&amp;tabindex=0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_4' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='4' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_4' value='WyJbXSIsImE0YjFiMmUxY2IxMWVhYTljM2FhNzdkODk4NDUzZmY0Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_4' id='gform_target_page_number_4' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_4' id='gform_source_page_number_4' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> </form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_4' id='gform_ajax_frame_4' title='This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.'></iframe> <script> gform.initializeOnLoaded( function() {gformInitSpinner( 4, 'https://blog.yelp.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_4').on('load',function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_4');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_4').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;var mt = parseInt(jQuery('html').css('margin-top'), 10) + parseInt(jQuery('body').css('margin-top'), 10) + 100;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').offset().top - mt); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_4').val();gformInitSpinner( 4, 'https://blog.yelp.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [4, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_4'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_4').offset().top - mt);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [4]);window['gf_submitting_4'] = false;wp.a11y.speak(jQuery('#gform_confirmation_message_4').text());}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_4').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [4, current_page]);} );} ); </script>