Could a Robot Replace Your Account Manager?

Small business expert Tony Bass offers his perspective of what “robots in landscaping” might look like.

Tony Bass—a business consultant, entrepreneur extraordinaire and former landscape contractor—says that automation is the next big thing in small business. In fact, it’s already here. And if you’d like to dramatically grow your company’s sales while working fewer hours, business automation is going to be essential.

Bass recently posted a series of articles on his website addressing this very subject, offering a unique, insightful perspective of what robots in landscaping might look like. We’ve recently written about that very subject ourselves (read it), addressing it from the more obvious angle of “robots replacing labor”. However, as Bass points out, the potential for robots in landscaping isn’t relegated to just field tasks such as mowing. In fact, Bass hypothesizes, “The mower operator’s job is likely safe for a while. But the salesman’s job is in jeopardy.”

Lawn maintenance has gone app-happy

Just look at all of the apps that have hit the market over the past few years—apps designed to help consumers quickly and efficiently find and vet, schedule and ultimately pay providers of basic lawn services. There’s TaskEasy, Green Pal, Mowz and Plowz, LawnBidding, Mowdo, MowFinder, Mowzart, and probably a whole bunch of others because a new one seems to pop up every week. Each will tell you that it’s the best with its own unique features and benefits. What they all share in common, though, is the objective of making it easier on the consumer to hire a lawn service, and easier for a lawn service to acquire new clients.

Some lawn maintenance contractors find this trend to be quite appealing; they would rather just be mowing lawns than knocking on doors looking for lawns to mow. Other contractors, though, aren’t so thrilled with this. Why? They fear that lawn maintenance will become a price-point commodity.

Bass explains, “As your individual sales effort is replaced by a third-party app provider, your price is likely being compromised by as much as 25-30%. The problem here is that these new prices being set by the internet (app) marketers, if they become widespread enough, could drive down all pricing in a given market area. This new price becomes the norm for contractors in that area.”

Are you willing to sacrifice a quarter or more of your gross revenue in exchange for a new client? Most of you will probably say, “heck no!” Some of you probably don’t have to worry. Your expertise, professionalism and level of service keep you from being dragged down into the price-driven commodity racket. But as internet marketing aficionados continue to push this new business model of “hiring a lawn service with four simple clicks of an app”, many of you landscaping professionals might start feeling some tugging at your feet.

“The best way to prevent yourself from becoming a commodity is to learn enough about this type of technology so you can lower your costs of business, engage your customers in a more personal relationship, and profit from a streamlined payment collection process,” Bass says. “There are lower-cost ways to do these things than to pay 10% to 30% of the sales price to a middleman.”

Make your website come alive, and start automating your business

Is your website still just an electronic brochure, or can site visitors interact with your site in any of the following ways?

  • Watch a video presentation
  • Download information to help them learn more about the services you offer and they might need
  • Request more information
  • Schedule an appointment or service call
  • Pay for services you’ve provided

Also, it seems pretty obvious but many service contractors come up short in the following regard: If your site invites customers and potential customers to “contact you”, you must have a mechanism in place to respond in a timely manner. Again, this process can be automated.

What about hiring a robotic secretary, such as TimeTrade or Appointy, that coordinates meetings and manages your calendar for you? And what about implementing some kind of e-learning tool to help train employees while you work on other things?

When it comes to robots in landscaping, the possibilities are almost endless. Some of those possibilities have already become reality—and many more will over the next several years.

“Are you like me?” Bass asks. “Are you employing robots in your company? If you're not hiring robots yet, I'll predict you will sooner than later. Here's why. Companies that automate routine tasks develop lower cost structures along the way. As they do, profits improve and business outputs become more predictable. You stay ahead of crowd. You move faster than the competition.”