We all can think of a business or two that we adore and recommend to everyone we know. There's a certain "something" they offer that just makes them stand out over the competition. There's a good chance you probably always leave feeling good about the experience you've had. Then, there are others that you swear to yourself you'll NEVER do business with again.

No matter what product or service you are shopping for, there is one element that can absolutely make or break the experience. It's something we hear about it so often, yet is often overlooked. Customer Service.

Yeah, I know. Many businesses claim to have "great customer service," and that may be their sincere intention. But what does that actually mean to your potential customers?

Obviously, greeting and being kind to customers is a huge first step, but it doesn't end there. People like to shop where they are acknowledged and treated with courtesy. However, that pendulum can quickly swing when a well-meaning but over exuberant rep becomes a little too eager and the customer feels they need to hide or just leave the business to escape the friendly onslaught. To be clear, though: courtesy is a crucial part of customer service. We just have to make sure it's sincere and not overbearing.

I'm sure you've had the unfortunate experience of waiting for way too long to be greeted by a waiter at a restaurant. However, perhaps an even greater annoyance is when you're trying to have a conversation with someone, but every two minutes a waiter is stopping by, sometimes interrupting conversations, with a vague "need anything?" For the customer, this can be particularly grating if the interruption seems unnecessary or feels insincere. It may even feel you are simply being rushed so they can "turn the table."

Another key aspect of customer service is follow-through. Very often, things start out well. Perhaps you've bought a car recently and the honeymoon period while you were making the purchase was impressive indeed. BUT. If a week after you buy the car, something goes wrong and you are unable to get timely help with your issue, you can feel forgotten and perhaps decide not to buy from that business again.

Here's the thing: It's not about never making a mistake. We all do that, personally and professionally. It's more about the manner in which things are handled. To be competitive in today's marketplace takes a bit more emotional intelligence. Take each customer at a time. What do they uniquely need? Are they the kind that want to be followed with lots of chatting or would they rather shop alone for awhile? We have to learn the difference to create the most optimal experience possible.

Whether you are a business owner, manager, customer representative, or customer (which we all are), I bet you could add to this list. What does customer service mean to you? What specific things do your favorite businesses do that cause you to want to do business with them for life? What are your biggest turn-offs? Let us know in the comments, if you can.