By Jim Cory. Companies that depend on repeat and referral leads for business need to know how clients feel about their project -- and the process. That's why, earlier this year, Dave Brady, owner of Oak Design & Construction, Oak Park, Ill., rewrote his company's client satisfaction survey.

The old form had seven yes-and-no questions and two open-ended questions. "That was good enough for an electrical or an HVAC company," Brady says, "but it didn't ask enough and it wasn't specific enough to give us the information we need. We felt it was time to look into different questions and survey our entire process."

The new form contains 11 questions -- including new ones on expectations, subs, and the helpfulness of office and sales personnel. Clients are asked to respond with a one-to-five rating for each question. The new form includes more open-ended questions. It also has a request for clients to serve as a reference or to have their comments or project photos posted on the company's Web site.

Comments on survey forms have led to changes in the company's forms and its procedures. Complaints about jobs not starting on time, for instance, led Brady to overhaul the scheduling process. And when clients seemed unclear about budgeting, allowances, and change orders, the billing process was streamlined. With 75 projects a year, many in six figures, the company needs feedback from every client on every job.

"Statistics show that people will not tell you if they're not asked," Brady says. "If you don't give them a way to respond, you'll never hear from them again."