Keep customers and clients happy and watch your business take flight.

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At this point, we’ve all seen the disturbing video of a passenger being forcibly removed from a United flight. It was a customer service fail of epic proportions.

As a freelancer, consultant or small business owner, it’s imperative to keep outstanding customer service top of mind. We rely on referrals and positive reviews, and customer service is often the deciding factor in whether a client raves about us and ultimately recommends our services or says, “Meh.”

And of course, poor or nonexistent customer service can kill a business. The PR fallout can be devastating to your reputation, and the resulting loss of clients can send your business into a nosedive. Here are a few simple best practices for serving your client.

Communication is key. I once heard that most malpractice suits result from terrible bedside manner. Meeting in person and spending time cultivating a responsive relationship with a client can not only lead to new work, it can serve as a bulwark against any unexpected slings and arrows — such as competitors who might try to undercut you — that arise.

Use the frickin’ phone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from friends and colleagues that talking on the phone “isn’t their thing.” Get over it and check in with clients verbally. Consider setting up a regular call or video chat to touch base. You’ll be able to suss out what’s working and what’s not, and solidify your bond in the process.

Own your mistakes, and do it quickly. I confess that I’ve missed my share of deadlines. But I’ve learned to let the client know in advance if I need more time. I resist the urge to offer explanations; my head cold is not their problem. And if I screw up, I take responsibility and offer solutions to mitigate the damage and prevent further problems.

Follow up. Write a hand-written note after a meeting, shoot off an email to recap a meeting, and take care to close the loop. If a prospective client has ghosted you, don’t write them off. Thank them for their consideration and let them know you are ready and willing to be of service.

Develop a customer service mission statement. “Fly the Friendly Skies” is now a punchline, but perhaps if every United employee had remembered their motto, the outcome of their recent customer service disaster might have turned out differently. A few ideas: “Let’s get to yes,” “Always be listening,” or, call me crazy, “The customer is always right.”

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at