Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Nice Tie-In With This Morning's Book Review:How Am I Doing? by Jerry Hocutt

Within minutes of my having published this morning's review of "Integrity," Dr. Henry Cloud's new book, I received my regular e-mail subscription to "Snippets," a newlsetter that shares sales tips with subscribers, and is published by Hocutt and Associates in Seattle. Today's piece, written by Jerry Hocutt, is a perfect companion piece to my review that highlights the point that Henry Cloud makes in his book about the improtance of being open to receive feedback.

I picked up the phone, called Jerry, and told him about the connection between his piece and my review of "Integrity." Jerry was kind enough to grant permission for me to reproduce his article for the benefit of the readers of The White Rhino Report.

Enjoy, and thank you, Jerry.

* * * *

How Am I Doing?

by Jerry Hocutt

When he was mayor of New York City, Ed Koch was famous for walking the canyons of Manhattan and asking anyone that question. He wanted honest customer feedback from those affected by his policies, people, and decisions. He didn’t always like the answers (these were New Yorkers remember), but they told him what he was doing right, what he was doing wrong, and what needed to be changed. All companies could benefit from his walkaround strategy.

Had an email from one of our seminar attendees saying his company had tried to implement a customer feedback process but “up to this point, our response rate has been disappointing.” He wanted to know if there were any “tried and true” methods that could get honest feedback.


Refer to Mayor Ed Koch.


When I worked at the then Fortune 500 McCaw Communications, every quarter we would invite 25-30 clients to meet with our president and his staff. The clients were the decision-makers of their companies, ranging from CEOs, to presidents and vice-presidents, to directors of purchasing, to business owners. They included such customers as Nordstrom’s, Alaska Airlines, Paccar, Washington Mutual, U.S. Bank, and Microsoft as well as many small businesses.

We made the feedback session an “event”. All the salespeople would visit their accounts and take a formal R.S.V.P. invitation to their contacts. Immediately after, a letter was sent from our president stating that he would be the one conducting the meeting along with our general manager and naming the invited parties. By listing the names of the attendees, and letting everyone know there would be time for networking, it increased our attendance to over 90% because business leaders wanted to meet their equals.

By our president stating he would be present and conducting the meeting, the unspoken message was this was an important event. The letter also stated that our salespeople would be present to listen only and no services or products would be presented or sold. The entire purpose of the meeting was to see how we were doing and what we needed to change. In addition, the meeting would last no longer than three hours and would start and end on time.

The results of the quarterly meetings were extremely rewarding. (Although we did learn one very important lesson from the first meeting: never invite two direct competitors because they will be less candid with their comments.)


A customer in Baltimore sent questionnaires to their clients stating that for every one returned they would donate $X to various Baltimore charities or to the McDonald House in their name. They preceded the mailing of the questionnaires with a phone call. (Leaving voicemail messages were just as effective.) The forms were then sent. Two days before the questionnaires were to be returned the salespeople called to remind their clients to return them to ensure the donations would be made. Once the questionnaires had been received, our customer posted the donations contributed to all the charities on their website.


Wouldn’t you know, I spoke too soon? A couple of Snippets issues back I mentioned how I’ve never had to have any repair work done on my Toyotas (which is why I buy them…because they don’t break). The day after the article appeared, our Toyota broke. The rear latch on the 4Runner wouldn’t open, so I had to take it in. A nut came loose on the latch, they retightened it, and I was on my way. Two days later a representative from the service department called. She quickly reminded me I had brought my Toyota in two days before and asked if it would be okay if she could ask me five questions about my experience with their service department. I gave them all “outstanding” marks including (1) “Would you bring your car back in for service in the future?” and (2) “Would you recommend us to friends?”

Here’s what made their customer feedback so effective. When the rep called she quickly identified herself and who she represented. In the same breath she reminded me that I had taken my car in for service; so she knew something about me and that I was a customer. That got me to stay on the line. Then she said she had only “five short questions”. Good. I can deal with that because I know this isn’t going to be a long, drawn out ordeal. Plus, she asked for permission to ask the questions. Good touch. Once she covered the first four questions, she said “My last question is – are you going to be in the market soon for a new Toyota?” She should have been paid a bonus for cross-selling and doing the salesperson’s job. Following-up on a service call to see “How are we doing” and then using it as an opportunity to cross-sell are two golden opportunities companies miss to get customer feedback, improve customer relations, and increase sales.

Want customer feedback? Just ask. But like Mayor Koch, don’t ask for a lot of personal information, don’t get defensive and try to justify what you’re doing, and then take action on what you learn.

© 2006 Hocutt & Associates, Inc. You can download Jerry’s free ebook, Creating Sales Opportunities – Five Proven Ways, at, email him at, or call him at 800-378-5941.

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