Why communication with customers is important.
When you are talking about a good experience with a business, then communication is everything. Your job with the customer does not finish when you sign them up. In fact, that is only just beginning. A growing business needs to retain existing clients as well as bring on new customers.
Your first impression is paramount.
The world of lawn care is a competitive place, and your company needs to stand out from the start. When dealing with customers, you need to be polite at all times. If you meet them on the job, then do the following things.
- Make sure you look tidy.
- Make sure your truck looks clean.
- Keep some deodorant in the truck and use it before getting out.
- Don’t wear sunglasses when talking to the customer. (they want to see your eyes)
For more information on managing quotes, you can read this article I wrote called HOW TO QUOTE ON LAWN CARE JOBS – THE COMPLETE GUIDE
Even if you disagree with the customer and you feel that they are unreasonable with their expectations you still need to handle yourself professionally. It is all too easy for them to jump online and give you a scathing review if you fail to handle things properly.
Turn up when you say you will.
You will be surprised how much work you can secure by just turning up. Not only is this a problem in the lawn care industry it is happening more and more in the service industry in general. My company advertises “Good Old-fashioned Service,” and we get a lot of calls. What a sad reflection to the state of the industry today that we can stand out from the crowd by advertising that we do basically what every company should be doing anyway. A lot of the time a potential customer has made three to four calls, and only one person is going to turn up. Make that person be you.
Give your customers a reason to like you.
When you are working on a lawn, and the customer drives in or out smile and wave. Be genuine with the customer. When I meet a client for the first time, I smile, and I instantly liked them.
Instead of being indifferent until the customer gives you a reason to like them, how about instantly liking the customer unless they give you a good reason not to. This line of thinking is a lot more productive for your business.
How to talk to a customer.
Learn your customer’s name and use it often -Your customers will love this. Put the customers’ first names on the job sheet so any workers you send to the site know their names too.
Try not to use negative words – When talking with your customers (or potential customers of that matter) try not to use negative words. Stay positive. It doesn’t matter to the customer what kind of day you are having. They are only going to remember the five minutes they spent talking to you. Make it a good interaction every time.
When a customer says to me “hows, it going” I say “pretty good” I don’t say “not bad.” The customer very rarely wants to know how your day is going; they are just being polite. Be polite and speak in a positive way.
Listen actively – You may have heard this before, but that is not going to stop me from repeating it here. When a customer is talking, don’t spend your time thinking about what you are going to say next. Think about what they are saying. Pause for a few seconds before you reply. By doing this, it shows you are considering what they are saying. If they say something don’t understand then clarify it by repeating in your own words saying you think they have said. If you get it right, they will be impressed. If you get it wrong, they will correct you and you have just avoided a miscommunication. Its a win-win for everyone.
Don’t interrupt – Never interrupt the customer when they are speaking. You interrupting is rude and also shows them that you are not actively listening. Every time you interrupt someone you are devaluing the relationship so get in the habit of letting people finish talking.
Be patient with customers – Do not rush customers on the phone. If a client or potential customer feels that you are rushing them through the call, then that will leave a bad taste in their mouths. You may start losing customers or not getting quotes. Always take your time with a customer. If you do need to get off the phone urgently then tell the customer something has happened and you need to deal with it immediately and you will call them back in five minutes, then do that.
Always use layman’s terms or analogies unless the customer is familiar with your industry’s terminologies – When communicating with the customer use plain English, not industry slang. If I need to use industry slang as there is no other choice I will make sure the customer understands. For example. I get a lot of people to ask me what a mulch cut is? So I have a standard reply that is simplified so anyone can understand. You don’t want to book a mulch cut and then have them complain about the grass not being bagged because the customer did not understand the word “mulch.”
Ask the customer for their preferred contact method – This is a bit of a double-edged sword as their answer may not be your preferred method. Still, this is worth knowing and noting down. We prefer texting but if a customer says their preferred method is an email we will always ask if texting is okay. We may point out the benefits of texting, but if they still want email, we will accommodate their wishes.
How to answer the phone.
You may be saying “I know how to answer the phone” if so feel free to skip this bit, but I think if you take the time to read this you may come across something you didn’t know.
Did you know that the phone is still the most common tool for turning leads into quotes? According to Forbes companies are losing up to 71% of leads by not following up in a timely manner. You may hate the phone (I know I do) but that doesn’t mean you can avoid it as a business tool. You need to make a habit of returning any missed calls as soon as possible. That also applies to online leads as well, even if it’s just a quick email to say “I got your message thanks, I will get hold of you later today”. Just touching base will increase your conversion rate.
Try to answer your phone every time within three rings. Doing this may be a bit tricky but it will increase your leads and customer satisfaction by a huge amount. If you are out in the field a lot, then try running a separate number to your mobile that is used in advertising only and gives it a different ringtone. By doing this you will be able to capture all the new leads as they come in and it will enable you to secure more new customers. Your regular customers are usually okay with you responding to their calls when you get home so the answerphone can work there. They can always text your mobile if it’s urgent. Make sure you go through all your messages each day as soon as you arrive home.
Finally, make sure the information you collect is accurate – Double check names and addresses
For further reading on this subject, I have written an article on this subject called HOW TO TURN INCOMING CALLS INTO QUALITY LAWN CARE LEADS.
Other methods of communicating with customers.
Using Facebook for communicating.
There are so many ways to communicate with your customers these days it can sometimes get a little overwhelming, especially with social media in the mix. Don’t run around when you start and set up a social media presence on every channel available as this can turn out to be extremely unproductive. Once you have set all of these up you now have a line of communication through social media then you are required to monitor. I would suggest just going with a few channels. Facebook is still an excellent place to have a presence and communicate with customers. If you haven’t set up a Facebook page then I have an article that leads you through the process called HOW DO I SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR MY LAWN CARE BUSINESS?
Once you have a Facebook page your customers and potential customers will be able to contact you through the messenger app. This is an excellent tool for keeping in touch with customers and bringing in new leads. Do make sure that you answer all messages in a timely manner as Facebook shows your average response time on the app so one missed message can really skew your average time. I have the messenger app on my phone and if I haven’t got time to respond straight away I will send a standard message saying “thanks for your message I will get back to you soon” this lets the customer know you have got the message and will appease the Gods of Facebook at the same time.
Incoming leads from your website.
When someone fills in a form on our website it will end up as an email lead on our end. The good thing about these leads is that if you have set up your web form correctly you will have a lot of details on the job. We normally use the following sections
- Do you want a Regular or One-Off job?
- Type of job.
- Have you got a dog?
- Any other comments.
This allows us to vet the lead. We go onto Google Maps and look at the lawn and check out the street view (careful this information might be a couple of years old). If it looks like a job we want we will send a “thanks for your inquiry we will call in today” email. If we don’t want the job we send them an email saying we are fully booked and have asked another company to call in. We then send the lead to another lawn care contractor who has agreed with us to follow up on leads we don’t want. When they get there they explain to the customer that we have sent them and if they get the job they send us a small commission.
Do not use text speak in any of your communications.
Your customers may use text speak but don’t be tempted to use it yourself. For a business, it comes across as lazy and unprofessional. Always use full words in your emails and texts. If you find yourself repeating the same phrase a lot then make a template. Don’t take any shortcuts when writing to customers.
How to improve communication with customers by using texting.
One of the best things about the mobile phone is that is a great tool to keep your customers in the loop by using texts. We use texts in different situations so the customer knows what is happening.
Appointment reminders – When we bring a new customer on board if there is anything that needs moving or unlocking before you visit or the customer simply asks for a reminder we put them down for an auto text. We do not offer the service unless we see a need or the customer asks for it. We may also offer it if we feel that the customer may be unreliable. We select all the lawns that need contacting the night before and send them all the same text with one click. Now they all know when are visiting the next day.
Payment reminders – Once we have done the job we send out generic texts at around 7 pm telling them that their lawn was mowed that day. We give them our account number and ask for payment within 24 hours. Most of our customers pay within the time frame specified, and that really helps with cash flow.
Delay notices – Sometimes if we are running late, we will text the customers who are expecting us and let them know there is s delay. This can be for various reasons but a few of the most common are.
- Bad Weather.
- Mechanical Breakdown.
- A Worker calling in sick.
Payment overdue notices – When a payment is late we send a text asking if they can check the payment that was due as it has not come through on our end. This is a polite way of saying you haven’t paid me yet; please do it now.
Quotes – We send a text to any verbal quotes we have done that day when we get home. Doing this gives the customer a written record and reminds the customer about the quote which provides us with a second chance at securing the lawn.
Do not limit your promotions to new customers only.
Most businesses run promotions from time to time to encourage new customers to sign up. If you do this also have out something you can offer your established long-term customers. If you are always just giving things to new customers, then older customers may start to feel alienated. Make a habit of making all your customers feel appreciated whether they be old or new. You could buy your old customers a small gift card at Christmas to say thanks or even have a VIP sale that is only available to them. Just remember that your business would not exist without your older loyal customers.
If you cannot do a quote, then let the customer know.
Nothing is worse than hanging around for someone to quote, and they don’t turn up. If you cannot get out to quote on a job and do not have anyone else you can get to quote then tell the customer. Just say that you are fully booked and cannot make it around. It may be a bitter pill for the caller to swallow but is so much better than saying you will turn up and not doing so.
If you cannot quote on a job be polite and respectable with the customer. Apologize about not being able to make it around but tell them that you are fully scheduled and don’t want to let anybody down. Most people will understand.
If you arrange for another contractor to do something put a time in your diary to check that it has been done. It is not the end of your part in the job once you have put the customer onto someone that will do it. You need to follow up to confirm the job was done and it was done up to the customer’s expectations. This will allow you to work out which contractors you should be using. When we send work or a quote through to anyone we require them to text us back to confirm that they have received the message and are onto it.
Video – How to fire a lawn care customer
Should you use CRM Software for customer management.
One way to keep on top of customer management is by using CRM software. This software keeps track of all incoming and outgoing contacts with customers and prospects. A lot of CRM programs lean toward the sales end of the spectrum and work with sales funnels and such. You do not need to use all of the bells and whistles that come with this kind of software if you don’t want to. You can just use it as a system for keeping track of customers. If you would like to explore this idea further then HubSpot has a good cloud-based CRM software and the best thing is that it is free.
It is cheaper to keep an existing customer than find a new customer.
I’m sure you have heard this before but the general consensus is the cost of finding a new customer is five times the cost of keeping an existing customer. When you consider this then keeping your existing customers happy with good customer service is a no-brainer. If the customer feels that they are not really getting any value from your service then they will go elsewhere.
You need to give good customer service to retain customers – To give you an idea of what kind of business I am talking about I want you to think about businesses near you. Is there a business that you happily drive across town to deal with? What makes them so special. If you give this some thought you will begin to see the way you need to conduct your business in order to get customers to feel that way about you.
I will give you an example. We have a local electronics shop that we always seem to go back to. A couple of weeks ago I bought a laptop from them. The particular one I wanted was not in stock so I paid for it and waited for the laptop to come it. I got a call a couple of days later to let me know it had arrived. I was out working so my wife called in to pick it up. When she got it home she opened the box and it was the wrong laptop. She rang them and they told her she could bring it back when the correct one turned up.
We kept it unopened in the box for a couple of days then got another call. My wife went back in to swap the laptop. This time she opened the new one in the shop. It was the wrong laptop again. It had the right name on both boxes but the contents were wrong. Since the laptops they were bringing in looked identical my wife asked what the difference was. Apparently, they were pretty much twice as powerful and twice the price. The shop assistant asked my wife if she wanted to pay the difference. My wife got a bit annoyed and told them she didn’t want to pay extra because if we were going to spend twice the money we would be researching other laptops before making a decision. My wife left the shop.
About an hour later she got a phone call. They were giving us the laptop at no extra charge, and they were running it out to our place.
When I heard I thought to myself “this is why I buy off these guys” they can take a bad experience and turn it around and make it a good experience. Now that is customer service.
You need to make your customers feel like that. If something goes wrong you need to admit your mistake and make it good. In fact, make it better than good. Make it something they will talk about. This will turn the unhappy customer into a staunchly loyal customer. They will stick with you and tell their friends how good you are.
Watch out for complicity – Do a couple of random inspections on older contracts a couple of times a week. When your guys have worked on a job and they are doing the same thing year after year the standard can slip and you need to be aware of this. Have your finger on the pulse and check up occasionally. Why not ring a random customer every week and ask them how the work is going. If they have an issue go above and beyond to make it right. If when you ring them they are totally happy then ask them for a review.
If a customer cancels ask them why – I know this is painful but you need to know this. Sometimes I just didn’t want to ask but I would. I would say something like “Just for my records can I please get a reason for cancellation? If they said “I was happy with the job but were moving” I would ask for a review. If they said, “You worker did a terrible job” I would say “would you be able to give me the opportunity to make this right” I would offer to fix it and give them another cut for free. After that, I would say if you still want to cancel that’s fine but I would like to do this first for you.
You would be surprised how many cancelled contracts I have reclaimed and turned into happy, loyal customers over the years.
Let your customers know what services you do.
Sometimes you can miss out on work from an existing customer because they simply did not know you offered the service. You need to make sure that all of your clients know exactly what services you offer. If you offer a seasonal service it doesn’t hurt to email your customers to see if they would like to opt in. They can ignore your email if they are okay or contact you back if they would like a quote on the service. This can be a great idea if you decide to add a new service then you can let all of your customers know at the push of a button.
Mining the clients you already have for extra work.
If you offer a full service why not arrange a VIP walkthrough with your more significant customers once a year when you can talk about what they would like to do for the year. This way you may be able to work out what extra jobs they would want to be done that year, and you will be able to schedule them.
Never complain about your bad day to a customer.
I’m going to finish with another story but be warned this one is poignant. It taught me a lot and I still get sad when I think about it.
I used to mow a lawn for an Accountant many years ago. He was a successful man and had the trappings of success. He had a nice house, a boat, and a great-looking sports car. On one occasion after I had been mowing his lawn for over a year he came over to talk to me. He told me how much he appreciated the work I did and how he was happy with the high standards of my work. He went on to say that it was really nice when he would see me mowing his lawn and I would always smile and wave. He commented that I always seemed so happy.
He then told me about the last lawn care guy he had and how every time he saw the guy he was complaining about something. One time he complained that he was a qualified locksmith, but due to circumstances, he had to mow lawns for a living. He didn’t like mowing lawns and thought he would make more money as a locksmith. My customer eventually got sick of him and fired him.
“Do you want to know something?” He then told me he had terminal cancer. It had been a couple of years since diagnosis, and he reckoned he had around a year to live. “The last thing I wanted,” he said “was my lawn care guy complaining about his lot in life every time I saw him.”
I was stunned. I honestly did not know what to say.
Within twelve months he passed away.
So the next time you’re having a bad day, and you start to complain about it to a customer just remember my customer’s story. You have no idea what’s happening in your customer’s life. Don’t automatically assume that what you are going through is worse.
You may be wrong.
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