Entrepreneurial giants such as Zappos and Amazon are famous for great service and that status has contributed to both their brands and their value. For many, customer service is a large part of actual business valuation at IPO or sale time.

Take Zappos, whose incredible customer service model contributed to its $1.2 billion valuation when Amazon acquired it back in 2009. However, you don’t need to be Amazon to master the art of great customer service. Customer service is crucial to the survival and success of your business and your brand’s value, more so than nearly any other factor.

1. Be authentic.

Authenticity goes further with customer service than perhaps any other factor. There’s nothing more insulting when you have a problem than hearing a disingenuous version of, “Uh-huh, yes ... we’re so sorry you are upset,” from the voice on the other end of the phone.

Whether you’re tackling customer service on your own or your company is large enough to have a staff helping to cover the calls, emails and live chats, you need to deliver a consistent, authentic service experience. Much of this starts with your customer service department, but it also depends on you as the founder.

What cultural values are you instilling in your staff that will help them to, as Tony Hsieh puts it, “Deliver wow” to your customers? How much are you empowering them to make the right decisions without micro-management or oversight? For example, can employees authorize refunds, reverse fees or provide any other financial reversal services without management oversight?

If you don’t empower your staff with the tools and protocols they need for successful service, you can’t realistically expect them to deliver.

2. Be proactive.

Anticipate problems, needs and wants to proactively create solutions for your clients and customers. Head off problems before they arise so your client not only feels heard, but they also have their expectations exceeded. If you charged them a fee, but didn’t deliver on the service, don’t make them ask for a refund -- deliver it proactively. Make that part of the dialogue from the start before they launch into their story.

Great customer service means anticipating what your customers will need or want before they have to ask for it. By the way, this doesn’t just mean delivering proactively great service when there’s a problem. If you have a retail store, it’s a proactive approach before purchase. If you’re online, great customer service can start with the site experience to exceed expectations before purchase.

The more you proactively attempt to address issues with your clients, from start to finish, the better the customer experience will be for them.

3. Go above and beyond.

Every customer service encounter is your opportunity to set your business apart from your competitors and go above and beyond.

Sephora always delivers free samples with each purchase. RueLaLa.com offers unlimited shipping for the month when you pay the initial $9.99 shipping charge on any order. Amazon will often deliver free if you opt for the slow route.

These are all small perks that build up to a great reputation of going above and beyond for great customer service. How can you deliver an experience from start to finish that sets you apart from the competition?