Vailes Brothers (Big50 1997), in Fishersville, Va., conducts customer surveys for several reasons. First, the “quality audit” gives the company a chance to immediately address any issues. Robert Vailes says the firm relies on past clients for future leads, so making sure they have a positive experience is crucial. The company prefers to wait a few weeks before giving clients the survey so homeowners have time to settle into the house and detect any problems. Once a job is complete, office assistant Julie Brubaker adds a note to her Microsoft Outlook calendar to remind her to send the questionnaire.

The one-page survey asks if the project was started and completed on schedule. Other questions address the courteousness of employees and the quality of the work. If the clients indicate specific problems, Brubaker immediately calls to tell them that the company will schedule a follow-up. If a homeowner answers “yes” on the survey to planning another project within the next three, six, or 12 months, Brubaker makes a note on her calendar to check in with them during that time frame.

Vailes Brothers posts the completed surveys on a board in the company's shop. “It helps instill the importance of customer service,” Robert says. “We also talk about the surveys at employee reviews.”

The survey also asks if the company can use the homeowners as a reference. If they agree, Vailes Brothers adds them to a list that is part of the package sent to potential clients before an on-site visit, and places the audit in a binder given to potential customers during the sales presentation.

If the company does not hear back from a potential lead after a few follow-up phone calls, it sends an audit asking why Vailes Brothers didn't receive the job. “That way we know what we need to do differently with sales,” Robert says.

The company began sending this audit informally 15 years ago. Owners Robert and Chuck have added a pool and spa division and a plumbing division, and include the audit as a formal practice for the entire company.