A New Approach to Customer Satisfaction

June 1, 2016
Seems like customer satisfaction surveys are all the rage these days. You call a company on the phone for whatever reason and you’re invited to stay on the line and give some feedback. But do you really feel “satisfaction” from this experience?

Seems like customer satisfaction surveys are all the rage these days. You call a company on the phone for whatever reason and you’re invited to stay on the line and give some feedback. But do you really feel “satisfaction” from this experience? They ask you three questions and you can answer from one through five your degree of satisfaction with the company’s service. But do you feel like your voice has really been heard? Maybe somebody in some office tallies these numbers and that’s the end of it.

In my home we have a bottled water delivery service every month. We live in a corner house and there are two gates to the back yard, one facing one street and the other gate facing the other. For 15 years, we took for granted the fact that these large bottles were always delivered through the correct gate and lined up right next to our kitchen door. All of a sudden, the company was sold and they started delivering to the wrong gate and not picking up the empties forcing us to call and have the driver come out again. For the next six months, they did it wrong every single month forcing us to call them until I threatened to cancel the service.

It should have been the easiest fix in the world, but this new ownership couldn’t somehow figure out how to instruct its drivers which gate to deliver the water through. It was not rocket science. We weren’t asking for special treatment. Just to hear what we were saying when we called them!

I have an acquaintance that runs a small business, restoring and polishing hardwood floors. The business is doing pretty well, he has several crews busy full-time and he is always looking for new workers.

I asked him the secret to his success. He’s obviously not the only guy in this big city doing this work. I know hardwood floors are popular but how much demand could there be?

So he talked about customer satisfaction surveys that he does. No, not the kind where customers answer one through five or spend their time going to some website to do the same. His customer satisfaction surveys are conducted by him, the owner of the company. He calls every customer personally to ask if they are satisfied with the job his workers did. He says something like “I know you’re busy but I just want to make sure everything was as good as it was supposed to be.” If the customer isn’t in too much of a hurry, he’ll inquire a little bit more: Did the workers clean up after themselves properly? Were they punctual? Were they respectful and polite?

He told me customers are blown away that he would take the time to do this. I asked him how much time this takes him. He said he does it first thing in the morning, while he is drinking his coffee and getting ready for the rest of his day. It usually takes him less than an hour. He said he had so many pleasant conversations with people who were amazed that he takes the time to do this, and that it generally leads to not only repeat business but referrals.

As for referrals, he tells each customer that if they refer his company’s services to somebody else and that prospective new customer arranges for an estimate, his company will send a check to the referring customer for 10 percent of his last job. He would write the check himself and send it in the mail with a hand-written note of appreciation. He told me this was money well-spent, better than any advertising. His customers call him personally, on a first-name basis, for advice on floor upkeep. They even ask if his company offers any other home-improvement services. Not bad.

Could this work in the equipment rental industry? Why not? Are you so busy that you don’t have time to contact your customers personally? Might improving your personal connection to your customers be just as valuable in building repeat business as trying to cut rates to beat your competitor? Would a discount for a referral be just as effective as a discount just because every rental company in town is competing to offer the lowest price on a scissorlift?

Granted, I assume most of you know more about running a rental business than I do, or this hardwood floor entrepreneur does, but I think it might be worth a try.

About the Author

Michael Roth | Editor

Michael Roth has covered the equipment rental industry full time for RER since 1989 and has served as the magazine’s editor in chief since 1994. He has nearly 30 years experience as a professional journalist. Roth has visited hundreds of rental centers and industry manufacturers, written hundreds of feature stories for RER and thousands of news stories for the magazine and its electronic newsletter RER Reports. Roth has interviewed leading executives for most of the industry’s largest rental companies and manufacturers as well as hundreds of smaller independent companies. He has visited with and reported on rental companies and manufacturers in Europe, Central America and Asia as well as Mexico, Canada and the United States. Roth was co-founder of RER Reports, the industry’s first weekly newsletter, which began as a fax newsletter in 1996, and later became an online newsletter. Roth has spoken at conventions sponsored by the American Rental Association, Associated Equipment Distributors, California Rental Association and other industry events and has spoken before industry groups in several countries. He lives and works in Los Angeles when he’s not traveling to cover industry events.