Visit any Pizza Hut or IHOP across the country and you'll find a comment card on your table, asking you to rate the quality of your meal, speed of service, and the friendliness of your server. Like these national restaurant chains, remodeling is a service-based industry, yet few contractors have customer satisfaction surveys. Even fewer have effective ones.

The questions on restaurant comment cards ask you about what are called "moments of truth" -- milestones in your dining experience. As a home improvement contractor, your survey should touch on the critical junctures of the remodeling experience, including the sales call, the design process, demolition, construction, and completion.

The questions themselves should be brief and easy to answer. Business consultant Tom Connellan suggests having homeowners rate their experiences on a five- or seven-point scale.

Continuity Programs, a Michigan-based company that does surveying as part of its customer loyalty program, lets consumers choose among "excellent," "good," "fair," and "poor."

Whatever method you use, make sure to keep the questionnaires as user-friendly as possible. Long, essay-type questions should generally be avoided, but it is wise to include space for your customers to express what's on their minds. According to Connellan, asking something like, "If this was your business, what would you do differently?" is more effective than a generic request for "other comments."

Most customer satisfaction surveys contain only a handful of questions and take just a few minutes to complete. Remodelers --whose relationship with a customer lasts longer and runs deeper than, say, a restaurant's -- may be able to get away with probing a little further. As a general rule, though, it's too much to expect someone to take more than 20 minutes to fill out a questionnaire.

Creating a survey is one thing; getting your customers to fill it out is something else entirely. GuildQuality ( is a company that does surveying as part of their comprehensive customer satisfaction analysis. They are set up specifically to serve home builders and remodelers. Often, consumers are more frank on a third-party survey.

If you're looking to keep it in house, however, you may want to give an incentive for completing the questionnaire. GuildQuality uses cash as an enticement, but you could offer a rebate, a discount on a future project, or dinner at a nice restaurant -- the kind where they don't ask for comment cards.