Successful companies want to know what their customers are thinking, especially about their service.
Satisfaction surveys are encouraged by consultants, management advisors, marketing gurus and just about everyone else who works with and for companies. All progressive companies should want to know their customers’ opinions of their service, performance and overall business.
What to ask? Generally, we want to know what our customers think, no matter what the feedback might bring in the way of honest criticism. For example: What did we do right, and what did we do wrong? Those are two ultimate goals to strive for when soliciting feedback. However, we need to ask more specific questions to draw out information that can be useful.
Pertinent questions include:
- Overall, how was our performance this past winter season?
- Have our invoices been accurate and timely?
- When you contacted our office, was our staff considerate and responsive?
- Did our sidewalk crews perform to your expectations?
- Was the plowing done in a timely fashion?
- Was the ice control adequate to keep your site safe for pedestrian and vehicular traffic?
Often these questions are part of a formal postseason review. Many snow management companies conduct such postseason reviews to ascertain the company’s performance, while at the same time using this face-to-face visit as an opportunity to solicit more/new business and to renew the customer for next winter.
Who’s it for? Feedback is not just for your customers. Those independent service providers the company uses to perform snow and ice management services should be reviewed as well. Too often snow contractors feel so reliant on their service provider’s ability to show up and do work that they are reluctant to critique their performance. If this is the case, then consider this: What does your company do when a customer advises you of a shortcoming in your performance? Most companies do whatever it takes to correct the deficiency.
In most cases, you are the service provider’s largest source of revenue. You are their largest customer. If they don’t perform to the customers’ expectations, and you are aware of the shortcoming, some would argue you have a duty to ensure satisfaction for your customer. You can do this by gathering critique from those in your company who interact with the service provider, and providing this feedback to them so they too can improve their overall performance.
What to do? Suppose they submit invoices to you 30, 45, 60 or 90 days after the work is completed. Often the contractor cannot invoice their customers that late and expect to be paid.
Yet some unprofessional service providers do just that – and then demand payment for services rendered “last winter.” Or, they do a good job on the site, but treat your internal operations staff like they are scum or as if they are the service provider’s personal slaves. Letting this go without corrective action is tantamount to not managing your business like a business. Most companies critique their employees in some fashion. Formal employee evaluations are the norm nowadays. It is the rare company that doesn’t want their employees to become better at what they do.
Formal reviews are standard issue in most well-run companies. Soliciting feedback from customers is also standard for many companies. Providing feedback to service providers is also becoming the norm.
If you have not established a formalized review process for all those involved in your business – it’s time you do.
The author is an industry veteran, a Snow Magazine columnist and frequent contributor.