It costs five times more to get a new client than it does to keep an existing one. Existing clients are often strong opportunities to provide referrals for your business. But, how do you continue to provide them with great customer experience?

Making your clients feel welcome is an important component of positive customer experience. Rest assured, modern technology combined with good manners will place you at the top of the list in today’s competitive market. The good news: It costs next to nothing and can be easily implemented with a little planning and coaching.

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1. Smile in person.

The number one thing you can do to make clients feel welcome is smile. Even if you are stressed out, distracted or upset, put a smile on your face when clients come in. Putting the client’s needs ahead of your personal concerns is the hallmark of a true professional.

2. Smile on the phone.

It is often said that people can hear a smile on the phone. Positive energy is transmitted through your tone, inflection, and rate of speech. Studies show that your mood elevates and your willingness to be helpful increases when you smile on the phone.

3. Office appearance.

First impressions are lasting and therefore critical. An attractive and neat reception area not only lets clients know that their comfort is a top priority, but that you are operating an efficient organization that they can trust with their business.

A messy environment announces to others that you don’t care, which is not an attitude that will win anyone over. It says that you don’t take pride in or respect your business operation.

Avoid blaming an unkempt office on being swamped with work.

This reveals either a lack of time management skills or staffing resources, making it necessary for you to cut corners. To clients, that may translate into not having enough time to give their business your full attention.

Pay attention.

Are the publications in your reception area relevant and current, or is the coffee table strewn with dog-eared copies of last year’s Good Housekeeping? Carry this concept beyond the front desk.

Your clients’ experience begins before they ever set foot inside the door. Everything from the parking area to the restroom should be neat and clean. Making that extra effort, such as offering refreshments or relaxing music in the reception area, lets clients know that you appreciate them.

4. Greet your clients.

Acknowledge clients as soon as they walk in the door. If you can, address them by name. If you are on the phone or busy with another client, make eye contact and smile. As soon as you are able, greet them verbally with a high-energy handshake and a smile.

5. Take a genuine interest in your clients.

In his book “Swim with the Sharks", Harvey MacKay discusses the value of knowing details about your customer that make him or her feel special. Find out the name of your client’s spouse and children. Ask about them by name.

What activities does your client enjoy? If your client tells you he’s about to run his first 5K, ask him about it the next time you see him. Better yet, read about the results in your local newspaper and congratulate him on his finishing time! Did his son just lead his high school basketball team to the state championship? Drop the newspaper clipping in the client’s file and give it to him the next time he comes in.

All of these small bits of information, when added together, create a unique bond with that individual.

6. Eliminate distractions.

Distractions such as ringing phones or interruptions from other employees can be frustrating to a client. Find a quiet and private area for meetings and ask not to be disturbed.

If you are a small business owner faced with dual responsibilities of reception and client meetings, silence the ringer and allow your answering machine to do what it was designed to do. Focusing on the client assures her that she has your undivided attention.

7. Give your employees a break(room).

Designate a private area for employee breaks. Do not allow them to huddle near the entrance. Offering your staff the same courtesies that you extend to your clients helps create satisfied employees who are eager to go the extra mile for your clients.

8. Create an electronic welcome.

If you don't have a brick-and-mortar store, but instead own a web-based business, you can still make customers feel welcome when they come to your website. When visitors sign up at your site by leaving their email addresses, send a welcome email. Thank them for coming to your website and explain what services or products you offer. Then invite them to come back to see you.

9. Keep communicating.

Once you’ve given your new client a proper welcome, be sure that you communicate with them regularly. Reply to each email in a timely manner and address each client by name.

You may want to send a monthly or quarterly newsletter, announcements about events in your community, or technical tips. Invite client feedback by placing a survey link at the end of an article or blog post. Allow clients to comment on blog posts, and when they do, acknowledge this feedback. In reply, always remember to thank the guests for their comments. Their time is valuable and showing your appreciation can make them want to come back.

Another place to keep the conversation going is on social media. Let your clients know that you are paying attention to their concerns and that their opinion counts.

10. Say “thank you”.

Thank each client at the end of a transaction or communication. Let them know you value their business and that you want to see them again. They will be more likely to return, assured that their business is appreciated.

In short, follow the golden rule, "treat your clients like you would like to be treated".  Be courteous and gracious and put the client first.

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Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not all-inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding the specific application of the information to your own plan.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.