How would you rate your long-term care facility’s customer service? Does your staff — from owners to operators to top executives to your frontline care staff — rate an A or an F?

Do you train your employees or do you just wing it when it comes to customer service?

If your staff fails at customer service and are not helpful or knowledgeable or are unpleasant, your brand and reputation could be badly damaged. Never has this been more true than in our current Facebook, Twitter and social media universe, where viral shaming is a very commonplace and all too real occurrence.

So, what can long-term owners, operators, executives and managers do to encourage excellent customer service? Here are five tips that will help up your game and provide customer service that will generate sales and repeat customers:

* Start some sort of training — now. If you have some customer service training in place, review it with your employees. If you don’t have a customer service plan, hire an experienced expert to spend a day training your staff. And if you have no time to train, remind your staff that “thank you” goes a long way, costs nothing and leaves a positive lasting impression with patients and their families.

* Meet with your staff at the end of each day. Discuss what went wrong and what went right. Make sure any customer service concerns are addressed immediately and solutions are made so customers are always satisfied.

* Prepare your managers and staff with a “mental” suit of armor. Make sure they’re aware all patients and families won’t be so nice and some will be difficult. Your employees will be on the front lines of occasional abuse. Warn them in advance and make sure that when those incidents happen that your employees will still treat patients and families with politeness and respect.

* Your employees need to care. It’s vital that your staff — from top to bottom — show they care and want to help.

* The most important customer service win: smile! Don’t let your employees greet residents and family members without a smile. A smile leaves a positive, friendly first impression.

Remember that if you don’t provide excellent customer service and fail to leave a positive impression, you risk your brand and reputation.

Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training in St Louis. She is a featured customer service trainer and speaker and has been a long-term care conference presenter.