How I Do It: Implementing Crew Body Cameras - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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How I Do It: Implementing Crew Body Cameras

Photo: GrassRoots Tree and Turf Care Inc.

When you think of body cameras, you probably think of the ones police officers wear in the line of duty. However, this technology doesn’t have to be limited just to law enforcement.

Josh Wise, CEO of GrassRoots Tree and Turf Care Inc., based in Acworth, Georgia, started using body cameras for his crews back in 2020 after researching the different camera systems for about a year.

“The main two reasons that we put them in place were the accountability of our technicians and protection for them,” Wise says. “And the other big one was the customer’s peace of mind of knowing the job is done right. When we’re doing liquid applications on the lawn, there’s really no evidence other than seeing weeds die a week later or seeing the results from the treatments. You’d have customers call and say, ‘I don’t think he treated my backyard. He was only in the front yard. My Ring doorbell camera picked him up in the front and not in the back.’ That was probably one of the biggest complaints we had.”

Wise says the problem was their technicians would reach a property, ring the doorbell and then go back to their truck before starting in the backyard. The Ring doorbell then captures the technician treating the front yard, rolling up the hose and leaving, giving customers the impression the technician did not treat the backyard.   

Achieving Employee Buy-In

When Wise first announced the roll out of the body cameras, his employees were very confused and wanted to know why.

Photo: GrassRoots Tree and Turf Care Inc.

“The first thought is you don’t trust what I’m doing,” Wise says. “You’re micromanaging me and you’re going to spy on me. It’s an invasion of my privacy. All those types of comments were being made. We just explained to the team that we’re putting this in play to protect you.”

On the first day the cameras went out, one of the technicians came back that afternoon and a customer claimed he hadn’t treated the backyard so they pulled up the footage to show he did. Wise says this first instance of dealing with a false accusation helped with buy-in from that point forward.

“There was really no issues and any new hires that come in they have no worries about it because the crew that’s here tell them, ‘Dude this the best thing ever. You want to make sure that you have this thing on you at all times,’” Wise says.

Wise says one particular employee was very against the cameras in the beginning but when his camera broke a couple weeks later, he did not want to go out and service properties without it.

“They come in and they grab the cameras off the docking station,” Wise says. “It’s a part of the uniform and the guys don’t want to leave without it.”

Benefits of Body Cameras

Since implementing the body cameras, Wise says they’ve had an increase in their customer retention as they fix any doubts that a clients might have about something happening or not.

Photo: GrassRoots Tree and Turf Care Inc.

“We use it for before and after footage,” Wise says. “I had a customer that called and was questioning if the treatments are working because he doesn’t seem to think his lawn looks any better than it looked a year ago. You go pull the body camera footage from a year ago and say, ‘Well here’s what it looked like when we started, here’s what it looks like now, I can clearly see a difference. Can you?’”

Wise can also see if technicians are doing the right thing like blowing off leaves before treating the lawn, picking dog or kid toys, making sure the gate is shut.

He says they’ve also had new customers call for an estimate because they’ve heard that GrassRoots records the treatments and they’re the only ones in the area who do so.

“They want to sign up with us because they have that peace of mind that if we’re recording it, then you know we’re going to do it and do it the right way because there’s a video that you can go watch and check,” Wise says.

GrassRoots’ service leader who runs the day-to-day operation of the service team regularly reviews the footage and will send recordings to customers upon their request. Wise says the service leader will randomly pull videos and watch with the technicians to look for any sort of improvements they can make such as arm pattern or walking pace.

Photo: GrassRoots Tree and Turf Care Inc.

He says the recordings serve as a good training tool and spot checking also ensures the team members are turning their cameras on at every stop.

“If you implement something and then you don’t pay attention to it, what gets measured gets managed,” Wise says. “If you’re not measuring the results you’re getting before long if they know nobody’s checking behind them, they’re not going to do what you want them to do.”

Wise says they also haven’t had any work claims since implementing the body cameras where someone twists an ankle over the weekend but tries to pass it off as work accident on a Monday.

Logistics to Consider

Wise says they use the Axon body cameras, which are the exact same brand that police officers wear.

He says that when considering the types of body camera, you should make sure it has a battery that is going to last all day. Wise says they’ve had situations in the past with cameras dying during the day because it didn’t charge overnight, so they have backup cameras to prevent this kind of issue.

“Just make sure that you’ve got the latest and greatest as far as the camera systems go,” Wise says. “You’re not buying last year’s model because you’re going to be missing bells and whistles. The clarity of the footage is really important. With the cameras we have it is very, very good quality.”

Photo: GrassRoots Tree and Turf Care Inc.

He notes that GoPros and cameras like those don’t pick up the details of the lawn. Wise says technicians need to remember to keep the lens clean as well. He says sound quality is also important as their camera uses three different microphones so it picks up on the conversations between the technician and the customer very well.

Wise says it also should have good memory storage so it can keep all the recordings until the employees are back at the office and can upload them. He says there’s new technology coming out that will be able to upload recordings straight to the cloud while technicians are still out in the field.  

They pay annually for unlimited storage for their cameras so they can go back and access the first recordings taken in 2020. Their five-year contract also ensures they get new equipment every two years.

Photo: GrassRoots Tree and Turf Care Inc.

GrassRoots’ crews wear the body cameras with a shoulder strap harness, but Wise says there is also a magnetic mount option.

As far as training, Wise says they teach their technicians to turn the camera on first thing when they get to the property and then turn it off once they return to their truck, that way it’s not recording anything personal. He says in one case a technician accidentally turned the camera on at the start of the day, so every time he thought he was turning the camera on at a property, he was actually turning it off.

“We had entire day of him driving the truck and no footage,” Wise says. “The way we found this out is we actually had a customer call wanting to see the body camera footage for her treatment. We were unable to furnish that. So you have a customer say, ‘Oh, so you say you record the treatment but you just somehow don’t have mine.’”

He says this sort of incident is rare though. Wise says there hasn’t been any drawback to make him regret his decision.

“If I did it over again, I just would have done it sooner,” Wise says.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.