How I Do It: Integrating Automation Into Workflows - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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How I Do It: Integrating Automation Into Workflows

Automation may sound like something reserved for manufacturing lines, but it can help improve your lawn or landscape company’s efficiency by condensing time-consuming processes.

Lawson Thalmann, chief technology officer for Chalet, based in Wilmette, Illinois, says they have been using email automation for six years. It started with their e-commerce efforts, which was a natural step when an order was placed by the customer.

They expanded their email automation to their brick-and-mortar retail customers three to four years ago and have started to delve into automation for their landscape clients over the past year. Thalmann says that email automation serves as a low-hanging fruit. He says the cost of experimenting is pretty low. They use the marketing automation software Klaviyo.

“If you look at other industries that have sales teams, they’re using email automation, left and right, particularly from a B2B standpoint,” Thalmann says.

Thalmann says they’ve been using email automation mostly for lead management with their landscape clients. When a lead fills out a form, a ticket is created in Zendesk and the lead is tagged during the qualification process so they are passed on to the correct person or team.

Instead of manually having to write emails, Thalmann says they can click a button to pass a lead from one person to the other as the lead gets qualified. Another click can pass the lead on to Aspire, where it’s assigned to the salesperson who will work with that customer.

Thalmann says their landscape automation efforts kicked off with them using Aspire.

“When we moved to Aspire, we had to question the way we did things previously because we were limited as to what we could do with our previous software and Aspire makes things more efficient in general,” Thalmann says.

Previously, they were writing things down on paper, which would get stacked up on a person’s desk.

Thalmann views automation as a way to speed processes up. As he evaluates their processes, he builds flowcharts to identify where the pain points or bottlenecks are. He likes Elon Musk’s five-step process of automation.

“Step five is actually automating but step one through four is rigorously interrogating is each of these steps necessary?” Thalmann says. “A lot of times there’s not a great reason why you have to do that step in a process.”

Thalmann says in some cases, you don’t need to automate a step; you can just remove it from the process entirely. He says this is something they want to improve upon.

He has had some pushback from their client relationship managers who are wary of losing personal connections with their clients, but he says you can teach a system to cross-sell customers automatically if they meet certain criteria.

“That would kick off an automated email that would explain the service in a perfect way and have a link to the website where the customer can learn all about that service that actually saves time from making phone calls and stuff,” Thalmann says.

Tagging can prevent automated emails from coming across as tone-deaf as they can help identify which customers have already been offered a service.

“What you have to be mindful of is that when you put an automation in place, you want to test it as much as possible,” Thalmann says. “But you can only test it so much until you put it out to the real world and people start interacting with. It does happen where the wrong email gets sent to the wrong the wrong customer.”

Thalmann tries to remind people that the technology performing the automation is like one of their team members. Over time, it won’t make many mistakes, but in the beginning, if there are mistakes, don’t lose faith.

“Try to do it from the standpoint of just like a human mistake to say, ‘Hey, okay, let’s just learn from that today,’” Thalmann says.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.