The variety of responses to this question is very interesting. We own a small family business offering free in-home consultations and quotes for custom cabinets and cabinet refacing. My husband takes care of the consultation appointments and gives the quotes, typically on the spot unless it's a complex project that he wants to take more time to give an accurate and fair price.
I write up the formalized quote and often answer a whole host of questions and/or provide additional photos (e.g., previous jobs we've done, pictures of the doors they looked at during the appointment to help them remember what they liked, etc.) or other information as requested.
I know that people don't do home improvement projects very often and aren't familiar with the process. While Brad's been building cabinets more than 35 years, I'm fairly new to the business and I clearly remember how confusing everything can be...the materials, construction methods, finish work, the timeline for what will happen when, and what happens during delivery and installation... So I like to provide sufficient information in plain language to help the potential client understand the details. Regardless of the size of the job, it's a big investment for that individual and they deserve to understand what they will get in return.
Yes, the appointment takes time out of my husband's production and installation schedule, or he meets with people on evenings or weekends outside of working hours. And yes, I put in quite a lot of time and effort providing all the information, but I go the extra mile because that's what I would like if I were them.
We fully expect that most people will get more than one estimate or quote (I would...and should have back when I had my roof repaired...). On average, we get about one out of three jobs we quote, so as a few people pointed out in their comments, there are costs involved for the jobs we don't get. But that's the way it is, just a fact of doing business.
That said, to get to the final point, we hear back from about 1% of the people who decided to go with someone else. We'd love to hear back from more of those folks. A response with a short email including as much or as little information about why you chose someone else would be fine. It could be as simple as "We got three bids and decided to go with another company. Thank you for your time." Sure, we'd like to hear what factors led you to your choice, which would be helpful, especially if it was a complex project, but it's not essential. As a small business, we appreciate just knowing where we stand, that we can put that quote in the closed file and move on to future possibilities.
Now that I'm on this side of the business fence, I always wonder about the flip side...if we don't hear from you, should we give you a follow-up call? We don't want people to feel pressured, but we do want them to know their project matters to us. We had one client wonder why we didn't follow up after our quote, so that got me thinking...but that's for a different discussion thread...