Today’s article is a guest post from legal blogger Matt Faustman.

Every year, MSN Money surveys adults about the quality of customer service at 150 of the best-known companies across the country and in 15 industries to find the MSN Money Customer Service Hall of Shame winners. The survey is now in its seventh year and the year-over-year industries that have acquired a bad rap for poor customer service remain the same. In the end, we dislike the banks, the cable television providers, and the credit card companies the most.

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How often do you wonder what your customers think of you?

You’ve probably thought: “If only I could read their minds, I could deliver the exact product or service they want, when they want it, at a price that makes them happy and makes me money!”  Unfortunately, this kind of psychic ability is usually reserved for TV, the movies, or Miss Cleo.

Instead of channeling your inner Mentalist, why not just ask your customers what they like or don’t like about you?

Step 1: Figure out what you want to learn from your customer
Perhaps you’ve noticed that a certain type of product or service you offer isn’t selling as well as it used to and you want to find out why.

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We know – another day, another marketing acronym. But once you’ve learned about SEM and become a wizard at SEO, you’ll need to do some great CRM in order to keep those new customers you’ve earned.

What is CRM? It stands for Customer Relationship Management, and it’s key to the success of your small business. The technical definition?

“Customer relationship management (CRM) is a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.” (Wikipedia)

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Today’s article is a guest post from Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout. 

As you well know, having lackluster customer service is a surefire way to get passed over by the demanding customer of today.

The question then becomes, what actually makes customer service truly memorable?

Each experience is different from the next, but there are some iron-clad rules of great service that every support team should put in place.

Below, I’ll outline 8 proven laws of outstanding support that your company should apply today.

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Ah, procrastination. The mortal enemy of the small business owner. With so many things to do, and hats to wear, and so little time for it all, entrepreneurs really need to be on top of their game to make it work. And for some lucky (or very disciplined) individuals, this kind of organization and focus comes naturally.

Then, there are the rest of us. Before anyone gets upset, nobody is saying that procrastinators are necessarily less productive, intelligent, or hardworking. It just takes a lot more energy for us to settle in and focus on the task at hand. We can be just as reliable about meeting deadlines as non-procrastinators — we are just up a lot later the night before.

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For the final installment in our series on building a community around your small business, we are going to about a strategy that lets you kill two birds with one stone: Crowdfunding!

We’ve discussed crowdfunding as a financing option before, but today we’re going to focus on its powers of community building. Which means we are going to take a closer look at CROWDFUNDx by the well-known company Crowdfunder.

For the uninitiated, Crowdfunder is an online platform that helps match investors with entrepreneurs. In their words, they want to “democratize access to capital for small business owners who don’t have access to wealthy investors.” Through their ever-expanding network, small businesses and startups are able to get in touch with people who can give their idea a chance to make it in the market.

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A recent infographic created by the design firm Gravitate shows just how beneficial a happy work force can be. Citing research done to determine the detrimental effects of stress, the infographic shows just how costly a negative working environment can be in real world dollars and cents.

While no business owner would come right out and say they prefer to have stressed out employees, the fact is that many bosses consistently prioritize the bottom line over the individual. What’s great about the numbers below, is that they demonstrate the benefits of good morale in a way even the surliest of workplace scrooges can understand.

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Today’s guest post comes from Don Fornes, CEO at Software Advice. Based in Austin, Texas, Don founded Software Advice in 2005 after working as a software analyst at an investment firm and as a corporate development executive at a pioneering CRM software company.

Organizing corporate files tends to be one of those to-do list items that is consistently overlooked or pushed aside — especially if you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner exclusively focused on growing revenue and keeping the lights on. However, I learned first hand just how detrimental neglecting this task can be.

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For today’s post in our series on creating community around your business, we’ll turn to Webs’ Head of Marketing, Rochelle, to hear about her first-hand experience with a local charitable organization.

It can be really difficult to think of new ways to create community around your small business–especially when you have your hands full with so many other tasks and demands.  One of the most effective community-creating strategies I’ve seen in action is in-kind donations: donating your business’s services or goods to other organizations (specifically non-profits) that can benefit from them.

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Last month we talked a lot about small business branding, and how creating a strong brand can add a great deal of value to your business in the long run. But what do we mean when we talk about “brand value”?

Brand value is a term that comes up a lot for companies with shareholders, because positive brand value can do a lot to convince people to invest in a business. It also comes up when talking about the buying and selling of companies when determining an appropriate price.

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