In customer-service circles, no news is bad news. Ruppert Landscape, located in Ashton, Md., gets a respectable 60% return on its twice-a-year customer-satisfaction surveys. Most of the 750 accounts give the company high marks. But it's the 40% who don't respond that cause management worry.

"We assume the worst," says Chris Davitt, vice-president of the company. "Those customers could be about to leave, and we need to reach them. We send out a follow-up letter that yields another 20%." A manager visits or phones the remaining 20%, as well as clients who gave Ruppert a negative report. Massaging discontented and unresponsive customers is time-consuming, but it pays off in increasingly larger renewal contracts and fewer bad debts.

Copyright 1999 G+J USA Publishing