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When dealing with 3,500 plus residential clients’ maintenance and design-build needs, top-notch customer service is key.
Two years ago, Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape, based in Alexandria, Virginia, experienced a significant growth spurt. The company realized they needed to grow the team and ensure their customers were getting answers in a timely manner.
Enter Serena Corby, director of client satisfaction, who manages a team of nine client satisfaction representatives. Prior to Corby, three employees were responsible for answering phones and handling all customer complaints, issues and concerns.
“We’ve grown over the last 18 months to build the team up to make sure that the customer is getting either the phone answered right there and then, or a return call phone call if it goes to voicemail and we’re extremely busy and everybody’s on the phone,” Corby says. “We literally don’t leave the day until every last email and phone call is returned.”
Communicating with Customers
This team deals with everything from phone calls to emails to processing contracts, billing and everything in between. Corby says the client satisfaction reps know the business well and if there’s anything they don’t know they get the answer from the owners or account managers.
“We are taking that frontline call via either the phone or an email and we are turning the answer around the same day,” Corby says.
Corby says it’s a mixed bag when it comes to the preferred form of communication with customers. Some clients who have been with the company for 20 years are more likely to call. Those who receive emails from Kingstowne tend to respond via email. All of the leads and emails from the contact form on the website go directly to Corby.
“I have a really great, efficient team,” Corby says. “I have some that answer just the phone voicemails, and I have some that answer just the leads. I divide them out. Everybody gets their share of the day on top of being on the phones as well.”
As for why clients are calling, it depends on what season it is. In the mowing season, customers will reach out about their lawns being cut too short or not being cut short enough.
“Always first and foremost is really allowing the customer to speak and allowing the customer to be heard.”Serena Corby, director of client satisfaction
The team works all in one room and Corby will listen in case a rep is dealing with a difficult customer.
“A lot of times if I hear them apologize a few times that always sends up a red flag for me,” she says. “Then I go over, and I listen to the call with them. Then either I’ll have them mute the call as the person talking and I talk them through it or I take the call.”
She says the main steps for deescalating a situation with an upset customer is to figure out what’s going on and why they’re upset.
“It’s just really figuring out with the customer what is going on, listening to the customer and putting a plan forward,” Corby says. “It’s really just a matter of talking to the customer and having them understand a little bit of reason as to what’s going on. But always first and foremost is really allowing the customer to speak and allowing the customer to be heard.”
In the midst of COVID-19, Corby says they had to step up their game communicating with clients. She says they had to get email blasts out to clients when an employee on the production team tested positive. The owners decided to close for a week after Labor Day in response to this.
“In the midst of all of this we changed up our phone system and we implemented a brand new phone system so we could be a little bit more up to date,” Corby says. “Also, we’re moving into a new computer program, hopefully by the end of the year, and that will give us optimal resources to contact people because it was a little bit of a struggle. We definitely struggled trying to get out as much information as quickly as possible.”
Since not all clients use email, Corby’s team had to ensure those customers were contacted as well. After the initial communication about the pandemic, Corby says customers haven’t had questions related to COVID-19 so far.
Maintaining Customer Satisfaction
Not all of Kingstowne’s customer service is reactive, as they’ll often follow up with leads and reach out to customers who have expressed an interest in a service down the road, such as aeration for the fall.
Also, every two weeks Kingstowne sends out a ‘How are we doing?’ email to customers for the work that was completed within the two weeks prior.
Corby says their retention rate with customers in a normal year is around 80 to 82 percent.
“We don’t have a huge turnover,” Corby says. “What we do see a lot of times if someone does leave us, they tell us that they’re leaving because of price or they’re leaving because the neighbor’s kid is going to do their yard or mow their grass. We seem to always get them back.”
Corby acknowledges their customer service setup is not common for companies of their size and they take pride in their response time to clients.
“I don’t like seeing that our customers are waiting,” she says. “I want my phones answered. I want the emails answered and I want answers given as quickly and efficiently as possible. My team does a phenomenal job with that.”