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Bill Gates once said that a company’s most unhappy customers are its greatest sources of learning. The obvious goal is to avoid unhappy customers in the first place, but odds are you’ll encounter a few – and maybe more than a few – no matter what industry you’re in. Here’s how to evaluate your current customer service to both prevent future pitfalls and emerge from future problems stronger and better.

#1 Ask your current customers.
That sounds simple, right? After all, they’re the best source of information on the subject – the people who actually have direct experience with your service. What’s less easy is identifying the best way to collect that feedback, and preparing yourself not to like what you hear. Because odds are – you won’t. Not all of it at least. That’s why partnering with a firm experienced in analyzing and improving customer service can be beneficial – it brings objectivity to the process, allowing critical trends and patterns to be extracted from less significant outliers so strategic change – instead of emotion – can drive progress.

#2 It’s not just customer service now.
In today’s world, your brand and all the nuances attached to it are so much more than the way a customer is greeted at the door or the way a phone call is handled. It’s about an immersive customer experience – evaluating every possible customer touchpoint and ensuring that each aligns with your company’s values and goals. Identifying all of those possible touchpoints across all locations and platforms (including marketing channels such as social media) is the first step in that alignment process. Wondering if it’s worth the extra effort? Research shows that companies with a customer experience mindset drive revenue 4-8% higher than those that don’t.*

#3 Start with your internal customers.
In many ways, your employees are your first customers. If you haven’t sold them on your business – your products, your mission, your goals – then the service they provide will likely suffer. Now more than ever it’s critical to focus on the inside out first – to optimize your company culture in ways that empower your team but – just as importantly – improve efficiency and ultimately help grow your business. Not sure how to get started? Click here to take this quick culture check to see how your business currently stacks up.

In the U.S., customers switching companies due to a poor service experience is estimated to cost companies more than $1.6 trillion each year*. That’s not a number to shrug off. If you’re wondering how much subpar customer service is affecting your business, this is a good time to find out:

*Source: Bain & Company; Accenture