We have all heard about business best practices. But what about things that you should not do if you want your business to thrive? Remember that having good business practices and not bad ones, will help prevent you from losing customers and from getting bad online reviews and negative comments. As we mentioned in another blog posting called “The Professional Image Of Your Small Business Begins With You”, we mentioned that a small business can only look as professional as the people who are running it. You can be perfectly dressed for the job at hand, but if you have a “pottie” mouth, or make racist or sexist remarks, you’re going to lose a lot of business trust and respect.

Not answering your phone or allowing your business phone to be answered by a child, can kill your business reputation. There is never a good excuse for not answering your phone – especially when your clients know that you are primarily using a cellphone that never leaves your side. When your phone rings, it should only be answered by you or by a professional representative. Allowing a child to answer your business phone, for example, sends a clear message to clients that you are not operating a professional business. If you cannot answer your phone all the time, consider using a virtual office service that answers your every call in a professional manner, forwards the calls when you can take them, and sends your callers to voicemail when you are unavailable. If your calls are sent to voicemail, be punctual in getting back to them as soon as possible. This shows your clients that you value them.

Avoid using a customer’s tools or equipment. Come prepared. By having to ask a customer if they have this tool or that technology to get your job done, you might look the fool – and that is not how your want your customers to think. Your customer likely assumes that people with real businesses and real expertise have their own tools.

Another great way to lose a customer is by not listening to them. They might not have all the answers, but they may have a valuable idea to help you solve their problem. When you are trying to solve a client’s unique problems, you can have years of experience and certifications, and enough awards to paper an entire wall of your office. So what? This will not help him or her. However, not hearing a customer’s experience will just make your job harder and likely lose the respect of that customer.

Leaving a job unfinished or leaving a mess behind when you are done are also great ways to ruin your reputation and guarantee that clients will not be calling you back. How do you expect a customer to be pleased with your work when the job isn’t done or if you have created a mess? Even pressure to get to the next job done should not prevent you from getting this one completed properly – and having a satisfied client who will recommend you and your services to others.

When you ignore or attempt to solve a client problem with a quick, easy fix, you could be demonstrating that you are lazy. When you fail to step up and solve other problems, you are telling the client that you really do not care about him or her. For example, if you are installing software to help a client and you notice a virus or malware, tell them about it – and if you can fix it, then do so. Pretending you do not notice an error or obvious problem is telling them you only want to get in and out quickly, and do not care about them or value them.

Bringing a child or pet to a client’s site is never a good idea, especially when you do not know their policies or potential allergies. You are there to do a job and not to run a daycare or have your pet cause problems. The first two or three minutes of having a child or pet with you on the job might seem “cute” and entertaining – but it does not show your client your professionalism and/or dedication to fixing his or her problems.

Bringing other surprises to a project, such as underestimating the price or the amount of time it will take to complete it, is another great way to lose a customer. You would look much better if you under-promise and over-deliver, both on cost and on the time it will take you to deliver the particular product or service.

Finally, sending an under-experienced apprentice or assistant to do the job the client hired you to do, tells your customers that they are not high on your list of important clients. There is no problem with leaving an assistant to finish the details of a job that does not require your expertise. But having them show up without you, tells the client they really did not need to pay for your expertise. Assistants and apprentices are there to help or learn, but not to do the job you were hired to do. Bottom line: It is your business, not theirs.