There are many ways to grow a business. And in the landscape maintenance industry, referrals are a common way to gain new customers. Today, these referrals come from social networks just as often as from noticing a landscaper’s truck at a neighbor’s house. But you can’t depend on referrals alone. Sometimes, referrals come from across town. Sure, these sales might be easy to close, but do you already have a route established in the area? The solution: route density.
Route density improves efficiency because it reduces your windshield time. Less time in a vehicle = more time servicing properties = more revenue and profit. It’s a simple equation. The benefits of route density go beyond the ability to deliver service faster. You can be more responsive to customers when your crews are close by. And, you can leverage supervisors and maximize their time when they can oversee accounts that are in the same geographic location. Managers can more easily visit properties and monitor quality without the lost time of traveling to disparate properties all over town.
Target desirable work by: customer type, customer profitability and density. If you get a referral that doesn’t fit that criteria, really consider if it’s the right job for you. If you decide to take the opportunity, how can you build density around that job?
Track It, Tame It—Minimize Travel Time
Three crewmembers behind glass can’t mow grass.
This speaks to the time suck that is windshield time. And, it’s why you need to build route density so you can put your labor hours to work. Start by assessing your existing routes. Where are you losing time? How could you build density? Use your GPS system to really focus in on how much time is wasted behind glass vs. in the field. You might be surprised to find out how long your crews are in vehicles rather than servicing properties. Take advantage of the software and systems you have to evaluate route density so you can improve it.
Develop Tighter Routes—Routing Pointers
Here are some rules of thumb to consider when building route density. Be patient. Density doesn’t increase overnight, and it takes planning and lots of diligence. You’ve got to focus on the plan to tighten up routes. And then stick to it.
>>TIP: Density First. Make this your top priority when acquiring new customers. With less travel time, you’ll reduce mileage and related expenses, while improving supervision quality and maximizing crew efficiency.
Skill & Equipment. Routing involves many variables because you’re organizing crews of humans (we’re all different) and assigning equipment of different sizes and capabilities to those teams. Not to mention, every property crews service is a bit different. Some simply take more time to complete than others. When routing, you’ll want to consider the skill level of crews and the equipment pallet you’re providing them..
- Crew Skill Level
Some jobs require more attention to detail than others. Some customers require more care. Newer, less experienced crews might flounder on demanding jobs, offsetting any density advantage. What we are saying is: Density is ideal, but it isn’t the only thing to consider with routing.
- Equipment Pallet
Equipment needs to align with properties’ demands. So, routes in neighborhoods with large, open properties will require riding mowers with bigger decks. You want to avoid swapping equipment around between crews, so plan routes where crews can maintain the same equipment that is appropriate for the job. We realize, the larger your company, the more flexibility you’ll have in running an optimal sized crew with equipment without sacrificing density. Smaller companies often have to be creative with crew size and equipment to improve density.
Route Scheduling Factors. Balancing efficiency and customer satisfaction isn’t easy. Some customers prefer a certain day for services; others want services delivered during a certain time of day. And, many customers appreciate crew continuity: They want the same people working on their properties week after week—and year after year, in many cases. When your routes are dense, accommodating these preferences is much easier.
>>These are restrictive forces. You can’t possibly honor all of these preferences and maintain profitability, so instead, focus on excellent communication with customers and close supervision of jobs.
Tips to Improve Routing
Here are some ways to improve routing while doing the best you can to meet customer preferences.
- Beat the traffic. Start early to beat rush hour at both ends of the day. Schedule routes so crews start closest to the office first and work away during lower traffic times of day, again ending closer to the office for a shorter return commute.
- Identify desirable jobs. Need to improve a route’s density? Ask crew leaders and supervisors to identify potential customers located close to your existing clients. Target these properties in your marketing efforts.
- Calculate time. How much time available do you have on a route? Figure this out before targeting new customers. For example, if a three-person crews works a 40-hour week, budgeted hours for the week are 120. If you have 116 hours budgeted, you can find a 4- to 6-hour job to fill the route.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was an excerpt from one of NALP’s member resources, provided by well-known industry consultant Bruce Wilson. Want to learn more about bettering your business? Become a member to enjoy these resources and more.
Looking for more tips to help your crews perform better in the field? Attend LANDSCAPES!