Going Beyond Customer Service: Delivering a Superior Customer Experience to Lawn and Landscape Clients - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Going Beyond Customer Service: Delivering a Superior Customer Experience to Lawn and Landscape Clients

In the sea of sameness, lawn and landscape companies often highlight their customer service as one of their differentiating factors. However, customer service just scratches the surface of client interactions.

“The customer service side is the bare minimum,” says Chris Galluzzo, director of account management for Mainely Grass, based in Bedford, New Hampshire. “You’re doing what’s asked of you. Customer experience is making the customer actually feel something when they’re getting that service.”

Fred Haskett, founder of TrueWinds Consulting, adds that customer service is a series of process points and standards you establish with your team, but the customer experience is the execution of those standards and principles you hold your team accountable to.

Going Above and Beyond

Galluzzo says taking extra steps, such as noting and following client requests and having positive interactions with customers when they’re on the property, help provide the best experience possible.

“In order to help differentiate yourself and make someone loyal to you, you need to provide them an excellent experience, not just a service, but you got to go above and beyond,” Galluzzo says. “That’s going to happen in all facets, whether it be on the phone or in the field. You want to make sure that you’re talking to an individual who’s going to care about your property just as much as you do.”   

Chad Sikes, owner/CEO of City Green Services, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, notes that follow-through is one of the most important elements to customers.

“It’s one thing to go out and do a site inspection, to do a quality walk,” Sikes says. “It’s another thing to show up 30 days later and see the same issues again and again and you’re just not doing anything about it.”

Photo: City Green Services

Rather than being reactionary like customer service, a good customer experience is all about being proactive.

Haskett says you should always look for ways to improve your client’s property, whether it’s from a functionality standpoint or by reducing the customer’s liabilities. He advises approaching enhancement proposals from a problem-solving mindset.

“We deal with perishable items that have lifespans,” Haskett says. “Trees and shrubs and flowers and perennials get old. So always look for opportunities to make it better.”

Sikes says that rather than waiting for a client to request enhancement proposals, they ask their clients about their budgets early on and provide proposals they can consider around budget planning season.

“We want you prepared; we want you to have all of the answers,” Sikes says. “We just try to more or less be an advisor. If this was our property and we owned it, this is how we would attack this.”

Galluzzo adds that in order to bring issues or possible enhancements to a customer’s attention, you need your technicians to leave detailed notes on everything they see on the property.

“We’re very adamant and we hold ourselves to a very high standard when it comes to taking notes during every single interaction that we have with customers, whether it be on the property, or just over the phone, via email, or text, that’s all logged and documented,” Galluzzo says.

Customer Satisfaction and Expectations

Keeping customers happy and loyal has become more difficult in recent years. Yet a superior customer experience can aid in client retention.

“One of the most important parts of providing a quality customer experience is to have an actual person on the other side,” Galluzzo says. “You can have people answering the phone, but if they’re sticking to scripts that seems pretty robotic to us. You want to make sure you have you have a personal touch too.”

Another way to ensure you’re able to satisfy your customers is to understand their expectations early on. Haskett encourages conducting a needs assessment, which involves determining the client’s needs, what they’re looking for in a service provider and other preferences, such as the service day and communication method.

Haskett says you need to be mindful of your dialogue with your clients. If things are quiet or if a new decision maker has taken over a property, these are jobs in jeopardy. He advises conducting a site assessment to make sure all is going well on the property so you’re not blindsided if a client decides to terminate a contract.

Sikes says they are selective about the clients they take on and if a lead seems mostly budget-driven, they’re probably not a good fit for their company. He says quality often becomes irrelevant for budget-driven clients. These customers are expecting a product and you end up setting yourself up for failure.

Galluzzo notes that raising prices raises customer expectations. This is why providing a superior customer experience is so important. It also increases word of mouth, as your current customer base is more likely to recommend you to others.

Customer Experience Is Company-Wide

Galluzzo says customer experience is an aspect that your entire company should be involved in rather than one subsection of your business.

Sikes agrees that your leadership team and account managers are only as good as the people in the field so you need to be investing the proper equipment and ensure your field team is properly trained.

“If your communication and your professionalism are great, but your field staff is terrible, you’re going to fail,” Sikes says.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.