Spring is almost here and you might be debating whether or not to hire a lawn care service to take care of your weekly maintenance. Maybe your equipment is in the dumps, you don't have the time to worry about the lawn, or you have a little extra cash and want to relax on the weekends instead of working your butt off in the yard. As a professional lawn service provider, I would suggest thinking about the following three items so you can feel confident in your decision. Whether you are hiring the local high school kid down the street, or a professional "big boy" service, here are my two cents on what to consider.
There are so many benefits to being an entrepreneur, but at the same time there are also many headaches. For most of us, there inevitably comes a time when we are unable to be in complete control of our business and therefore must trust and rely on the training and leadership of our employees to run it in our absence. This became a reality a few weeks ago when I left the country for two weeks and had to rely on my relatively new employees to complete the landscape maintenance of 268 homes, all while providing the same customer satisfaction that we strive to provide. One of my employees dislocated his shoulder wrestling with friends just days before I left, so I was at a point of absolute panic thinking that my business would implode on itself while I was away. It was not until I returned and saw that everything was still intact that I realized how dumb it was to freak out so much as to whether or not I had trained my employees enough. Below are some pointers, suggestions, and ideas I realized after going through this experience.
1.) Trust your Employees:
If you are the great boss that you believe you are and you have trained your employees to the standards of your business, allow them to take the reigns of your business in different forms. This doesn't mean dropping the business as a whole on their lap and saying "deal with it," but it means allowing them to make decisions that you as the boss would normally make. This can be as simple as speaking with a client, or as big as making business decisions while you are away.
2.) Train your Employees:
In a small business situation it can be the temptation to just train your employees to do the basic things they need to do when you're around. Since you will not always be around, whether you are on vacation or are sick, it is important to train your employees to take over for you when you are gone.
3.) Don't Freak Out:
When the time comes that you are away from your business and have to leave it in the hands of your employees don't freak out. If you have trained them properly and you have trust that they can complete the job or run the business while you are away then there is no point to run the worst case scenario over and over again in your head. Trust that your employees will rise to the occasion.
While traveling back from Canada this week I found myself in LAX Airport searching for food to hold me over till my return to Reno. Since the options were slim and the lines were long, I chose to wait in a 20+ person line at Burger King since I was in no rush for my next flight. While the three cashiers were working hard at pumping people through the line, there was still a limit as to how fast Whoppers can cook and french fries can deep fry. Before I knew it there were more people who had ordered and were now waiting than people in line to order. I found myself holding ticket order #89 as the server said, “Number 62!!!” at which I realized I would be here for some time.
While I sat back and watched the angry mob tap their feet, look at their watches, and start to panic, it was evident that Burger King was doing their job as correctly and efficiently as possible, but it was the inpatient customers who were just not smart to order if they were pressed for time before their next flight. There were two specific people that demanded that their food be served to them right away or they would miss their flight. The lack of patience was beyond me and it was obvious that there were just a few customers that realized Burger King was doing everything they could.
So why write about this experience? This was one of the few times that I witnessed a business that was failing by doing everything right! Many people ended up getting their food and walking away frustrated even though the employees at Burger King were working as fast as they possibly could. Although this is a unique situation due to the different customer base in an airport, other businesses should know how to react if the demand is way greater than what can be supplied.
1.) Be real with your customer up front:
In the case with the Burger King situation, it would have been helpful for the cashiers to give the customer a heads up regarding the approximate wait time before the customer committed to buy. With my business, this means being honest with a customer that if I am busy it might be a few weeks till I can get to a job, even if that means losing the bid anyway. I would rather lose the job than have a person pissed off because it took me an unreasonable time to complete. What does this look like for your business?
2.) Keep the customer informed:
Since patience is so hard to come by these days it is important to keep the customer informed on what the holdup is. In the Burger King situation, there was a delay on the fries to be cooked so the server was smart to make an announcement to the angry mob as to why it looked like everyone was standing around (this was due to waiting on an item to cook).
3.) Smile and Apologize:
It is strange how this step does so much and is understandably hard for an employee to swallow his/her pride and apologize for something they didn’t do wrong. Sometimes you can rectify the situation by just being nice in the end. A simple, “I am sorry sir for the wait, I hope you enjoy your meal” might just make up for the impatience of the customer. Although a pissed off customer probably won’t hurt this specific Burger King, due to it being in an airport without a consistent customer base, it hurts the business as a whole if a customer walks away believing that “every Burger King has slow service” which will prevent them from returning to any Burger King in the future.
I read an article today on the 8 rules to good customer service, which made me think if Cory's Lawn Service was keeping to these 8 rules? This is a area of a business that is probably the most key for success, because if you don't go out of your way for your customers then your customers will go out of their way find someone who will. I realize there are hundreds of lawn care trucks driving around in Reno everyday, so why should someone choose Cory's Lawn Service to take care of their property instead of the other guy? Before reading this article I prided myself on our over all customer service, and I still do, but I can see there are still some obvious ways we can improve to help our customers. (Quick Story) A few years ago my wife and I were picking out our Christmas Tree from a lot. I have never really thought about desiring good customer service at a tree lot because its a once a year purchase and half the time I forget where we got I tree the year before. Anyway, after selecting our tree I realized I did not have any cash and told the tree guy we would be back to pick up the tree once we went to the ATM. Right then the guy loaded our tree up in my truck and said, "Just bring the money by later this week whenever convenient. You guys have a nice evening". Since that day, I have continued to return to the same Christmas tree lot year after year and recommend my friends there as well.
So, how can a lawn care service provided a similar type of wow reaction? How can we stand out above the crowd? How can we better serve our customers? This is where the lawn care business can not just be about mowing the lawn and getting the job done, because honestly the next door neighbors kid can do that for a lot cheaper. It means, consistently thinking about small things that customers enjoy that you necessarily don't get paid for. It means, owning up to your mistakes and fixing them. It even means, taking the extra time to chat when Mr. Johnson comes outside to pay you.
Although nobody is perfect, as a business owner it is a priority for us to be thinking and applying these steps daily. If you are a current customer who is reading this I want to know if there are ways we are excelling or lacking in our customer service? Let us know your thoughts, good or bad.