Southwest Plumbing

Posted on February 9, 2011


Recently, we had some plumbing work done on our house.

What Happened

The outdoor faucet on the front of the house froze last winter. We hardly ever use it. There was no leak unless we turned the faucet on. The pipe split between the valve controlled by the stopcock and the stopcock. When I turned the faucet on, water poured out from under our vinyl siding, so we just stopped using it.

We Tried to Fix It

My father-in-law and I tried to fix it ourselves. He’s a very handy guy, and I’m a fast learner who knows his house well. The trouble was that after we turned off the water and unscrewed the pipe, we couldn’t pull it out. Something held it in place. Eventually we cut away drywall inside the house to find the problem. The valve was actually inside a part of the wooden frame of the house. Whatever it took to remove that pipe, we didn’t have the knowledge or the tools.

So We Called a Plumber

We called Southwest Plumbing because we’d used them before and been satisfied with their service – and because we had a coupon for about $50.00 off. The plumber (his name was Evan; I’ve got his business card if you want to contact him) was prompt, courteous, and careful not to track anything into our house. He reassured us with his competence, and he communicated well with us. He removed the pipe efficiently, and he had everything he needed in his truck to make the repair. When he finished, he walked us through what he had done and offered to take care of anything else while he was there.

Customer Response Card

The real meat of this story happens after that. I received a customer response card in the mail from Southwest Plumbing.

The Good

  • They checked on their performance and how well Evan represented them.
  • They did it in a way that kept the field representative from manipulating the feedback system. Since he never handled the card, he had to do a good job to get a good rating.
  • Because they paid for postage, I filled out the card and returned it.

Prepaid postage comes out of a company’s budget, and I respect that. In various volunteer organizations, and in the military, I learned to treat postage like money. A prepaid response card is an indication of commitment to customer response. If that’s all you’re offering, that says the customers’ opinions are worth about US $1.76 each. That assumes a 1 in 4 response rate. If fewer people respond, your cost per response goes up.

Of course, you can avoid the whole issue by soliciting feedback electronically, if your customers are likely to be tech-savvy.

The Worth of My Opinion

About a week after I mailed the card, I got an envelope from Southwest Plumbing. In it was a form letter, and a VIP coupon for $39.95 off their next visit. In other words, a completed customer response card was worth $40 to Southwest Plumbing plus the postage they paid.

Now, if I’d filled out a very negative response, I doubt I would have gotten a coupon. In fact, I hope that I wouldn’t. The proper response to negative feedback is an investigation. If you get a negative response from a customer, you should contact that customer and find out the details behind the negative response. It may be that the customer is unreasonable, and un-please-able. On the other hand, the customer may be alerting you to a defective product or a field rep who isn’t pulling his (or her) weight. Your attentiveness might convince the customer to use your business again, which would make the coupon useful again.

Which Leaves the Question

What dollar value are you putting on customer feedback right now?