DENVER, CO æ If your customers yearn to be free, then you would have benefited from the panel discussion called “Building a Fence Around Your Customers” at the Quality Service Contractors (QSC) Power Meeting XIII here.

Moderated by Ron Resnikoff of the Mitchell & Resnikoff ad agency, the panel was comprised of several contractor members of the QSC. Resnikoff kicked off the session by noting that branding is important. “A brand is a promise of behavior,” he said. A consistent brand converts customers into advocates.

“Most customers die of neglect,” he stated. You have to pay attention to them.

The first “fence builder” or panel member introduced was Dennis Schlekie. He said that he instituted a customer survey card and is getting a 20% return. An employee calls after the tech leaves the house to thank the customer, ask if everything is OK, and see if there is anything else they can do. The firm sometimes lines up additional business through this call.


“I think the best way to retain a customer is personalized service,” said Schlekie. The person who calls for follow-up is the same person who took the order.

Resnikoff noted that you have to work from a customer-centered model. There are “simple things that will delight people.”

Becky Baethke uses customer response cards as well. Returned cards go into a monthly drawing for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate for a local restaurant chain. She said her response rate is 25%.

People who win the $100 gift certificate are going to tell other people, remarked Resnikoff. Using this technique, he said to Baethke, “You bought that customer with emotional currency.” The key is to make the customer feel important.

Jim Murtha operates in a rural area. He uses a customer survey that is mailed back to the customer and he gets an amazing 62% return.

He said that his firm has been scoring 10’s on a number of service categories. The company addressed cleaning up after the job with techs when they got an 8 or 9 in that category. Murtha stressed to techs to make sure customers see you putting on booties and make sure they see you cleaning up afterwards.

Steve Carder related that he has a database of customers, but he didn’t use it for marketing before. To take advantage of it, he decided to establish a rating system for customers, including such information as how they use the firm’s services and their payment record.

Patty Frank noted that her company calls the customer after the service call. She said her firm has adopted the policy, “If you’re not happy, we’ll do whatever it takes to make you happy.” She said the business has been getting a lot of positive feedback.

The Home Care Club, which includes home inspections and a value rate, is being used by Tina Hendrick. She said her company has gotten 250 customers to sign up. They do 15% more work through home inspections.

New contractor Joe Landree sends thank you cards to customers. Depending on the size of the job, he may send a gift basket. Discounts are given to those customers who refer his company to someone else.

Publication date: 10/09/2000