Energy Swing Windows instituted a zero-defect program and has seen customer satisfaction dramatically increase.
Energy Swing Windows instituted a zero-defect program and has seen customer satisfaction dramatically increase.

Customer service surveys work a lot like a Swiss Army knife: simple yet multipurpose. They can help you improve your work process, can function as a marketing or sales tool, and can motivate employees to do their jobs better. In California Replacement Windows' Anaheim showroom, for example, no fewer than six binders with 150 customer surveys each lie on coffee tables, available for prospects to look through. Co-owner Jerry Kerby calls them “testimonials from the source.” California Replacement has been surveying customers for 15 years, and Kerby says he has learned that surveys offer compelling evidence of the company's quality of service.

Working for a 10 Customers at Mr. Rogers Windows, a Renewal by Andersen (RBA) affiliate in Hampton Roads, Va., get not one but two surveys — one from Mr. Rogers and one from RBA. Some 200 Mr. Rogers surveys are collated and placed on a pedestal in the showroom.

Blank surveys from RBA, meanwhile, “are an integral part of the sales presentation,” salesman Ed English says. He explains to customers that Renewal has strict guidelines for quality and performance and will follow up with the affiliate company on survey results. He spends 10 minutes of his presentation talking about the survey and its role in ranking Mr. Rogers among all RBA companies (No 1. in 2002 through 2004, No. 3 in 2005). “I'm working for a 10 from you on this survey,” he informs prospects.

Moment of Truth Not every response is positive, of course. Surveys provide “a real watch on the pulse of the business, where the customer can respond without talking directly to the person they may have a problem with,” Kerby says.

Understanding that, Energy Swing Windows in Murrysville, Pa., uses survey data to improve systems. When the company began doing surveys five years ago, 65% of respondents felt the value of the work done was equal to what they'd paid, says president Don Darragh, and 35% thought the value greater. To boost satisfaction, the company instituted a zero-defect program that uses a 24-point checklist at the end of each job. Last year, the percentages had reversed to 34% and 66%, respectively.

However you intend to use a customer satisfaction survey, don't let it sound like a promotional tool, says Bruce Katcher, a Sharon, Mass.–based consultant. “If it smacks at all of advertising or self-promotion, you won't get honest feedback.”