Customer feedback is essential, but getting customers to respond to surveys is a challenge. Home Delivery Incontinent Supply (HDIS), a 35-employee mail-order company, located in Olivette, Mo., prints survey questions directly on remittance envelopes sent with customer orders. The survey appears either on a perforated portion of the sealing flap (the customer tears it off and encloses it) or on the back of the envelope, which has an extra-long sealing flap to cover the answers.

Survey questions ask customers to rate the telephone representative, the product selection, the speed and accuracy of the shipment, and the company overall. To keep customers from becoming bored, the closed-ended questions are periodically replaced by a request for open-ended feedback or by discount offers for ancillary products such as air fresheners.

All open-ended suggestions are followed up with a phone call or letter. Open-ended questions are particularly effective with sensitive items like incontinence products, says HDIS marketer Angela Farrell, because customers are more likely to express thoughts about them in writing, rather than on the phone. The company is quickly alerted to disliked product changes and obtains valuable insight on serving customers. For example, in response to their suggestions, HDIS gives customers access to staff who have expert knowledge about incontinence, and it prints its catalog with enlarged type to make it easier for the elderly to read.

Tremendous response rates are achieved--around 80%--because the survey is short, noticeable, and returned with payments. HDIS can track trends without the lag associated with yearly surveys. Also, ongoing surveys provide a constant stream of positive feedback that rewards and motivates the staff.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing