Design Of The Times

Listen Up

A little criticism never hurt.

Entrepreneur Chuck Miller knows just how important it is to listen--really listen--to what customers have to say. The owner of Torrance, California-based Aztec Tents & Events observes, "We could sit around saying `Aren't we wonderful?' But [it doesn't matter] what we believe--it's what our customers believe."

To gauge customer opinion of his 31-year-old party and event equipment rental company, Miller began sending out follow-up surveys about a year and a half ago. Aztec customers are asked to evaluate the performance of employees and the quality of equipment rented. A space for general remarks is also included. "When I get [negative] responses, I personally call and say, `Tell me what transpired,' " Miller says. "Usually, customers just about fall over--they don't expect somebody to follow up."

Much less the owner of the company. But with an overwhelming 80 percent response rate to its surveys, Aztec is asking for--and getting--feedback worth its weight in gold. "It's a simple little fill-in, but it gives us so much information," says Miller. "It's helped our business immensely. It keeps customers coming back."

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Design Of The Times.

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