Customer surveys may call attention to problems only after the fact, and ongoing demands from new and vocal customers may drown out a loyal, but silent, majority. How can you meet their needs?

The Kansas City office of Harte-Hanks Communications, a provider of database marketing systems, listens to the silence. This $30-million business unit formally reviews its stewardship of each account once a year. All personnel on an account discuss all aspects of serving that client. "The process is effective at uncovering areas where we could do better," says Henry Lammers, vice-president of marketing. "We have time to improve before the customer complains or leaves." For example, a review of the Similac infant formula account led to the addition of Internet access for customer service. Sometimes account reviews reveal cross-selling opportunities.

Harte-Hanks' annual reviews also allow employees to identify their favorite (and least favorite) aspects of working on an account. When possible, they adjust work to accommodate employee preferences. After all, happier employees are an important step toward happier clients.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing