At a time when many landscape construction contractors abruptly shifted their focus to landscape maintenance, Scott Parker doubled down on his bread and butter: residential design/build. He's made it work, thanks to some standards and systems put in place long before the construction and housing markets collapsed.
Parker grew up in a 65-year-old family business. Parker Gardens, a 14-acre greenhouse and garden center, was started by his grandfather in 1948. Parker's father runs that company today. After hearing many stories about contracting "nightmares" from customers, family and friends, Parker saw an opportunity to start a business of his own. He did just that in 2002 when he founded Parker Homescape in Basking Ridge, NJ.
"I saw a niche in focusing on extraordinary customer service combined with a fantastic product," Parker says. Sounds simple—but it's easier said than done for many contractors. Just ask "Lisa", a Warren, NJ, homeowner who nominated Parker Homescape for the Pros in Excellence Award in 2007. She called Parker after another contractor "installed a horrible landscape and never returned a phone call after the job was complete." Parker Homescape did just the opposite, which is why the company has been able to build a backlog of design/build work—even in today's economy.
Basic pillars of customer service
In just 10 years, Parker Homescape has evolved from a small design/build firm that advertised heavily to attract new business to a near $2 million company with a backlog of work garnered strictly through word of mouth. Parker says the transformation has been made possible because his team always "goes the extra mile" to please clients and generate buzz.
"Some of the small things that have significant meaning are returning phone calls the same day, replacing plants that have perished in a timely fashion, and other complementary services," Parker relates. For instance, if a client calls five years later with a concern about a plant or an issue with an insect, Parker Homescape will make a visit to the property—free of charge.
Parker views this type of customer service as a marketing investment, as opposed to a profit drain. It has obviously paid off. Just to make sure, Parker sends clients a questionnaire at the end of every season so they can provide feedback on professionalism, workmanship and presentation. "We welcome feedback on any and all areas," Parker says.
Continuous improvement is something Parker and his staff take very seriously. Each member of the management team has earned a bachelor's degree. But the learning doesn't stop there. "We offer continuing education through Rutgers University," Parker points out, adding that it's limited to landscaping- and horticulture-related courses, as opposed to business, for example. "We're looking to further our employees' product and construction knowledge."
Most recently, Parker and his lead designer, Jon Mercer, attained ICPI (Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute) certification. Now they're setting their sights on the current evolution of outdoor lighting. "We're really interested in LED lighting as it is starting to replace low-voltage lighting as the wave of the future," Parker says.
You have to deliver
Parker Homescape is already certified as an installer of low-voltage Kichler Lighting. The company is also Techo-Pro Qualified by paver manufacturer Techo-Bloc. These types of certifications are important—because the first step to providing outstanding customer service and creating positive buzz about your company is delivering a first-rate product.
Parker Homescape delivers a lot of them, including landscape design and installation, hardscapes, water features, drainage solutions, outdoor kitchens and lighting. The company also installs outdoor fireplaces, pool decking and unique driveways, and offers excavation and lawn restoration/installation services, as well as many types of masonry services.