Editor’s Note: This is the third and final installment of a series on the benefits of a customer-survey system. Click here to read part one, about surveying during design and construction, and click here for part two, about surveying immediately after a project is complete.
Our firm uses a three-part survey system, the final phase of which is the follow-up calls we make after projects have been completed. Most people think of this as an optional best practice for sales and marketing. However, this is such an important aspect of sales prospecting that I would consider it a requirement. But, as with the other surveying that we do, the real value comes in the information that drives continual improvement—not just in sales, but across the entire organization.
We call clients back six months after a project has finished and then every year around the anniversary of its completion. The first thing we ask is, “How is everything holding up?” Many contractors are afraid to ask such a question, but really, they should be afraid to not ask this question. Sometimes we don't get the answer that we want, and we have a self-generated callback on our hands. However, what we have gained is far more valuable than the inconvenience and cost incurred: We have addressed something that was annoying a client.
This almost always creates a raving fan who will tell the story to friends. “This company,” they say, “not only called us back six months after they finished the job, they also came back and took care of a little problem.” If you don’t ask about and address problems, that story is more likely to be, “They did a pretty good job, but…”—if they say anything at all.
In the six-month call, the clients have had enough time in their new space to have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. We ask, “Looking back, what is one thing that you would have done differently in this project?” We also ask, “What is your favorite aspect of the project?”
Don’t we all want to know when our work is not performing as it should? Though our company does not get many callbacks, when we do, we look for a place in our system to make changes that help avoid us that problem in the future, which reduces the overall number of callbacks we face.
Making sure that our clients hear our voice at least once a year helps maintain the relationships that are key to growth. Of course, we also ask clients if they are considering other projects or if they know anyone who is.
We do not run a handyman division—except for past clients. When we call, we always ask if there is anything on the “honey-do list” that we can take care of for them. These little jobs are not a great source of revenue in and of themselves, but they keep us top of mind with our clients, who are our number one source of leads. Even if a client does not have a lead for us when we call them, it is not at all uncommon for us to get a call within the next couple of months from someone who says this particular client recommended us.
Frequently, we do not reach people on their phone; when this happens we leave a message saying that we called and then follow up with an email. We use the cloud based program Pipedrive to store client information and control the entire callback process. We make these calls and emails on one day every month. As a regular routine, it does not take much time and returns great results.
From beginning to end, our process for surveying clients allows us to monitor their satisfaction level so we can respond quickly to any problems; learn specific areas where we can make improvements; see how our work endures; and stay in touch with our past clients, which generates leads. Surveying is such an important part of our process of continual improvement that I cannot imagine operating without it.