There are customers out there who are simply afraid to complain -- who'd rather switch companies than fight. The problem is, that can wreak havoc on repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising.

Clarke Otten, president of Professional Swedish Car Repair, in Atlanta, ferrets out nonconfrontational customers by telephoning all customers one week after they visit either of his two locations. He sets aside an hour or two a day to make 20 to 50 calls.

Customers remember that the president of the $1-million company called them and really feel serviced. And, "I can get them to admit what's bothering them and address the problem right on the spot," he says. The calls also keep his 12 employees on their toes. "They know I'm in touch with the front line and know better than to try to slip anything by," Otten says.