It’s great when a landscape company owner is well-liked by clients and remains accessible to them. But if the other employees of his company are falling short, you can bet that his competitors are going to exploit it.
Additionally, being the sole point of contact for clients makes it difficult for a landscape company owner to spend time on other areas of the business. That makes growing sales and/or improving profits nearly impossible to achieve.
Employees must be just as conscientious about listening to customer needs as you are. Employees must understand what your customers’ priorities are. And they must be empowered to and capable of responding in a favorable manner. Here are some tips to make this happen.
Expand Your Definition of Service
What does “service” really mean from your customer’s point of view? Yes, your expertise and operational efficiency are great. What about punctuality? What about employee appearance, or maybe the appearance of your truck and equipment? Should your crew be blasting hard rock music while laying pavers? Find out what your customers do and do not like, and establish a new definition of service that your employees understand and follow.
Think about how you judge a restaurant. The steak is always fantastic. But the wait staff is rude, there are potholes in the parking lot, the bathrooms are gross, etc. Do you like going to that restaurant? Probably not. Now apply this line of thinking to your landscape company.
Also keep in mind that these “little things” that often shape consumers’ attitudes are continually changing. What might be a great differentiator one year becomes a commodity the next. For example, you’ve always prided yourself on your ability to get back with customers by the end of the day. But what if your competitors are now doing that too, and/or customers now expect you to get back to them within an hour? You simply have to stay on top of customer expectations—and do your best to live up to them.
Everyone’s Gathering Intelligence
Company owners and (if applicable) their sales staff and managers should be talking to clients about these matters. Surveys can also help gather information. You might also want to empower crew leaders to touch base with clients from time to time while servicing their properties. Train them on questions to ask. Then, make sure you’re dedicating time back at the shop to get together as a team and discuss what you’re learning—and document it.
Your office staff also plays a role in intelligence gathering. Consider this example: A commercial client calls your office and asks your office manager if she could send her two invoices every month. Rather than just responding with a simple “yes,” your office manager asks why two invoices are important. The client says she has to send a copy to the home office. So your office manager offers to send that second invoice directly to the home office, saving your client the trouble. Taking it a step further, you now empower your office manager to check with other clients to see if this is something they would also appreciate.
Set Customer Service Guidelines
When you’ve gathered customer intelligence and redefined what service means in your company, you can start to set customer service guidelines. For example:
- Return all phone calls within a certain timeframe, and follow up until you connect with the customer
- Resolve on-site problems immediately
- Set deadlines for completing proposals
- Establish a process for “thank you follow ups” after completing installation projects
- Create a “how are we doing?” form which crew leaders are instructed to give to clients every month, for instance.
It takes a lot of effort to keep in touch with customers. But it costs much more to acquire new customers. Always remember this. Taking the time to reach out to clients, ask for feedback and discuss ways you can do better will go a long way. It will go even longer when you involve your employees in the process, and truly establish a customer service culture in your landscape company.