[Editor’s note: This is the second in the four-part series titled “Where Have All the Customers Gone?”]

In the first column in the series, titled “Customers and True-Blue Customers,” (Jan. 17) we identified that it doesn’t matter how many customers are in your database; instead, the real number that matters is the number of repeat customers you’ve established. In this column, we’re going to take a lesson from elementary school and apply it to retaining customers. It’s true - everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten.

Having a third-grader myself, there’s a ritual that takes place every evening at our home. He asks, “Will you sign my folder?” If you are not familiar with this, a school folder contains all of our little student’s exercises, quizzes, and graded homework. The folder acts as a way for us to review and track our child’s performance. It’s required that my wife or I sign the folder, so the teacher knows that we understand how our third-grader is performing. It also alerts us to any problems or struggles that may be occurring.

Do you have a personal folder in place for each of your employees to see how well they’re doing at providing customer service? Yes, I’m talking about a report card. Should you have one?

In today’s society, I don’t think you can naturally assume that if your customers aren’t complaining, they must be happy. Nor do satisfied customers guarantee that they will use you again.

To build loyal, repeat clients, you must live by the fact that not all unsatisfied customers are complainers. In fact, the complainers are probably an exception. That’s why you should be thankful when you hear their complaints. For every upset customer, there are likely many more; they just didn’t take the time to let you know. The majority of people look to avoid any conflict, and if they’re unsatisfied with a company’s service, they just quietly go away.

Furthermore, simply because you have satisfied customers doesn’t guarantee that they are repeat, loyal customers. In the customers’ perspective, satisfaction is what they expected. You have probably spent your hard-earned money with businesses before and been satisfied, but never returned again to that particular business. This happens to your company, too.

How do you know whether your service is driving people away, meeting the minimum level of satisfaction, or building loyal, repeat customers? The best way to answer this question is by asking your customers, “How are we doing?”

I suggest you develop a series of questions that you feel are important to your customers - important operational issues - and as a result, important to your overall success. For example:

1.Was our team member polite?

2.Did our team member clean up afterwards?

3.How would you rate our service?

Also, whether you ask these questions verbally or through a printed survey, always welcome additional customer comments. Those typically prove to be the most valuable. They give you true insight into the good and bad things happening in your company.

The day you start asking your customers for feedback, your report card, is the day your service will start improving. Remember, what gets measured gets improved. I know the level of service your team delivers will drastically improve the day your employees know customers are sending home their report card.


As I mentioned earlier, you can ask the vital questions in a number of different ways. Perhaps a customer satisfaction survey would best suit you. Thankfully, you have many different options to choose from. Pick one and get started.  A few ways to consider for conducting the survey are:

1.Randomly select a percentage of customers who you will mail a survey to monthly.

2.Have your technicians hand out the survey upon completion of service with postage-paid reply cards or envelopes with a stamp affixed to them for your customers to return at their convenience.

3.Have your technicians hand out the survey upon completion of service and wait for the customer to complete the response card while they’re in the home.

4.Your office staff can conduct a telephone survey.

5.Departmentalize your responses by maintenance, service, installation, IAQ, etc.

6.Your quality control manager can periodically go with your technician to evaluate his/her service.

7.Your quality control manager can make periodic visits with customers after your technicians have left jobsite homes.

8.Send your surveys out via e-mail.

9.Use auto attendant; it’s an automated telephone service that will ask customers to answer your questions positively or negatively by pressing the No. 1 or No. 2 on their phones.


In summary, to build repeat customers, you must deliver service that earns repeat business. The only way to know how you’re doing is by asking your customers how you’re doing. That’s how you discover what they like and dislike. Then, do more of what they like, and correct what they don’t like. That’s the way to make money every day.

To share with Nicholson a particular method or survey that works well, send it to tnicholson@yoursgi.com.

Publication date:01/31/2011