Your company treats customers right. At least you're pretty sure it does. Your receptionist — or the people in the phone room — do a great job setting appointments, confirming appointments, and fielding inquiries. Your sales reps are upstanding people. Your installers have worked for the company for a long time. You get few complaints, and those you do get are promptly dealt with. So why aren't you getting more referrals?

The answer to that question will remain a mystery until you actually ask customers about their experience with your company.

If you're not doing this, is it because you're more concerned with the deal you just signed than with the job you just finished? Or is it that you don't want to pester your customers?

If pestering is your concern, you should know that most customers don't mind being asked for feedback. In fact, many will feel flattered.

And the way to ask is to contact every customer who you've recently done work for and have them rate your company on every point of contact, as well as the finished work. Ten or 12 questions should cover it.

Ask them to rate your people on a numerical scale, and include room for open-ended comments. Conclude by asking: Would you recommend our company and its services to your friends and neighbors? Why or why not?

Be prepared to find out a lot. The feedback you'll get will allow you to instantly spot problem areas in your service delivery — little things you hadn't noticed before.

And if setting up a program to print, mail, and process these questionnaires (they can also be e-mailed, or, alternatively, calls can be made) sounds time-consuming and expensive, think of it as another marketing piece you're sending to previous customers. All that information for the price of two stamps. Here are some other advantages:

  • If you follow up with a phone call, chances are good that you'll get referrals or another job.
  • Instead of stowing the forms in a filing cabinet, put them in binders and place them in your showroom. Customer comments make the most compelling kind of testimonial.

Seeing your business through the customer's eyes will probably make you want to change a few things. Or maybe more than a few things. But here's a sure bet: When the day's mail comes in, those stamped, self-addressed forms will be the first envelopes that you open.

Jim Cory, Editor
jcory@hanleywood.com