Surveying clients is one of our most important business tools. It provides insight to fuel growth and improve customer service. It is also where we get our best marketing material.

A couple of years ago at a Remodelers Advantage Summit, I heard Geoff Graham of Guild Quality speak. Geoff is a dynamic speaker and runs a great company that provides third-party surveying for remodelers.  After hearing him speak, I went home and canceled our contract with them.  

Why did I do this? Because after hearing Geoff speak, it became clear to me how important client surveying is. I ended our contract not because Guild Quality was doing anything wrong—far from it. They delivered such great value that I had taken this important process for granted. I needed to bring it in-house for a time to gain a visceral feel for it and to expand its application. It was never our intention to stop using Guild Quality for long, and they are an important part of the overall system we’ve developed.

For us, surveying starts with the initial sales call. Showing prospective clients positive comments from past clients creates trust. Right off the bat, they know that we are a company capable of creating raving fans. That’s the kind of company everyone wants to work with.

The designer surveys the client at every design meeting and once construction starts, the production manager does so at every weekly client meeting. In order for the client and our team members to be comfortable, there needs to be setup in terms of letting the client know what to expect.

If this seems like an absurd amount of surveying, understand that in the design and construction phases this is one question. The question is basically the same question that many doctors ask their patients: “From 0-10, what is your level of pain at this point in the process?”  

In order to give clients a more concrete sense of how to answer this question, we encourage them to think about it as how likely they would be to recommend us at this time, but it is important to make the question about them and not us. The information that we get is invaluable for our ability to proactively address issues. It’s not uncommon for us to think that things are going great and then to hear that the client’s happiness level has slipped. If we had not been tracking this information, we would not know this.  

Most often, there is not one point causing the slip—it is an accumulation of the little things, such as having a lager flow of people in the house during subcontractor-intensive times in a project, when there is more noise such as during demolition, or when a bit of dust gets left behind. Nonetheless, knowing that there has been a slip allows us to probe a little deeper to better understand why it has happened.  Just the act of noticing and asking questions provides some reassurance. Often we can provide a specific remedy, like added cleaning; other times, it is simply a matter of providing a little more empathy, and maybe a gift card for a dinner out.

To track information across individual jobs and across types of jobs, we use an Excel spreadsheet.  Without tracking, patterns cannot be recognized.     

Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a three-part series on the benefits of a customer survey system. The next section will look at the more extensive end of project survey.