It’s important to find out quickly if you’re doing anything wrong out in the field. A tech who doesn’t use his booties and dirties a customer’s rug can cost you future business. It’s also important to find out what you’re doing right. A tech who is always polite and professional, even when it’s an urgent emergency job, is golden. That’s why it’s essential to always request customer feedback.

Have your employees hand out a feedback card with every job. Give customers the option to call, e-mail, or mail back the feedback card. On the card, note that you value their feedback, negative as well as positive, and every problem or concern will be acted on - every pat on the back will be passed along to your employees.

If you send out a customer newsletter, use that venue to ask for feedback. List your phone number and e-mail address - if you have a feedback area on your website, list that as well - and again invite questions, concerns, etc.

Survey your customers periodically. Mail out a brief survey form. Include an incentive to respond such as a discount on their next tuneup. If you have an e-mail list of your customers, try an e-mail survey where people can click and respond quickly and conveniently.

In addition to finding out how your techs are doing out in the field, you also want to find out how your customer service representatives are doing on the phone. An abrupt or discourteous rep on the phone can also do a lot of damage to your business. Every customer has to be handled with care.

Customer feedback and surveys not only give you information that you can use to improve your service, you can also use them to gain testimonials that you can use in your advertising and sales brochures as well as to get referrals to bring in new customers.

If a customer responds with something that would make a great testimonial, ask for permission to use it. On your feedback card and in your surveys, be sure to ask for referrals.

People like to buy from businesses where others have made satisfactory purchases from a reliable company. It eases their purchasing decision.

Testimonials attract quality prospects. A referral puts a quality prospect right in your hands. This is extremely valuable and worth the time and effort you put into it.

When you solve a customer’s problems and meet their needs, you can gain an ally for life. People like to help others and they likely would be happy to connect friends and family with a quality, trusted contractor.

If a customer is willing to give you a testimonial or a referral, reward them with a gift card to a popular local restaurant or store. Make that an enticement to help get testimonials and referrals.

Requesting customer feedback should not be an afterthought. Used consistently and effectively, it can be an excellent tool to improve your service and gain new business.

Before joining the editorial staff ofThe NEWSin 1996, Greg Mazurkiewicz worked in public relations and advertising for more than 20 years. In this periodic series of articles, he shares some of his expertise in the field of marketing communications.

Publication date:12/06/2010