Positive Feedback From Service Customers

Jim Olsztynski’s November 2010 editorial opinion (“Nowhere to hide”) gave great insight into one aspect of a contractor’s customers using the Internet. However, he didn’t mention a second, positive aspect of a contractor’s customers using the Internet.

The Internet is a fantastic, unobtrusive method of communicating with busy customers. After each week of completed service jobs, you can take a few hours and personally solicit each customer’s feedback regarding your company’s response to his or her need.

Within a few months of instituting this method to survey new customers, I solicited feedback from Jean Smith. My message to her is as follows:

“Dear Jean,

“Thank-you for selecting our company to resolve your sink stoppage problem. So that we may improve our service to you in the future, please let me know how my office staff and Billy Jones responded to your needs.

“We sincerely appreciate your comments to help us become a better company.”

Jean responded, using her work e-mail. And apparently she liked my request for feedback; I think she must have broadcast my survey to all of her work associates! During the weeks, months and years after hearing from Jean, we received hundreds of new customer service requests from other employees at that same company.

It takes just a few minutes to cut and paste this simple message to your service customers from the previous week. Each of my employees knew that the customers they were working for would, without fail, get my inquiry the following week.

When I e-mailed customers, I first sorted them into groups: first-time client, plumbing regular customer and HVAC regular customer. Each week’s messages are slightly different so that each one seemed unique to that customer.

The Internet offers contractors many new possibilities to conduct business and relate better to their customers. I bet if you asked, you would receive a lot of new ideas and methods from some of your readers. 

 Jim has, month after month, raised our industry’s professionalism. Thanks for the good work.

Tom Warner
Reston, Va.

Legislatures Drop The Fire Sprinkler Ball

On the last day of the 80th legislative session (2009) of the Texas legislature, an amendment was tagged onto a bill that prohibits any city from adopting an ordinance to require fire sprinklers in one- and two-family dwellings. After the session, an article was published listing the amounts of money legislators had received from home builders. It was incredible.

The amendment originally was a bill that was successfully stopped from going to the Calendars Committee and the floor of the Texas House by testimony, letter writing and personal visits by members of the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Association, the National Fire Protection Association, the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the National Fire Sprinkler Association and the Texas Fire Sprinkler Contractors Association.

We welcome Julius Ballanco’s voice of reason (“Fighting terrorism in the home,” January 2011) and, like him, are unfortunately waiting for that fire death and ensuing litigation.

Carol J. McCain
Executive Director
Texas Fire Sprinkler Contractors Association
Kingwood, Texas

Here in South Carolina our legislature, heavily lobbied by home builders, has fumbled this issue. It elected to implement residential sprinklers beginning in 2014. In my opinion, that just gives those fighting it more time to lobby to extend the implementation date. 

Thanks for the voice of reason from Julius Ballanco’s perspective. The fire service takes a beating from those that believe we only see this issue in one way. It was nice to hear a lot of the same arguments we use coming from the plumbing profession.

Stephen Blackwelder
Lancaster County Fire Marshal
Lancaster, S.C.

Internet Review Sites: Truth Or Gossip?

When I read Jim Olsztynski’s November 2010 column, “Nowhere to hide,” it brought back the whole Angie’s List issue to me.

The Internet, like most of our media, relies on the principle, “If it bleeds, it leads; if it’s scandalous, it sells,” no matter if an item is true or not. Others look for profit or revenge, the need to gossip or to get back at another person - the truth be damned.

Because of assumed anonymity and the ease of processing information, the Internet is actually worse than mainstream media. What percentage of information is true and what is false? How much is just a copy of an original? Where are the footnotes and sources? Where is the proof and authority?

Unfortunately, Jim is right; there is nowhere to hide. When those who slander can do all the damage in a split second, and later find out they have the wrong target or had a change of heart, even they cannot retract a wrong. Does the complainer realize the damage he or she does, even if the complaint is valid?

We need to educate people that maybe there is more to the complaint than is published on an Internet review site. Extortion is alive and well on the Internet. These so-called lists would be more accurate to describe themselves as forums for gossip.

As long as people have expectations, realistic or unrealistic, they will complain. But would they complain just to see what jumps out of the bush if they knew many people will suffer more than they believe they have?

H. Lance Bent
MELROY Plumbing & Heating
Baltimore