Here's a thought: you could create the nicest, greenest, lushest lawn in the whole state, full of vibrant flowers, gorgeous trees, magnificent stonework and enchanting water features, and make it the envy of homeowners worldwide — but if it isn't what your client wanted, you'd have done a bad job.
More than anything else, customer satisfaction should be the number one priority for lawn care and landscaping companies. Although it's an important focus for any business, it's especially crucial in this industry. Why? According to John Deere's 2012 State of the Industry report, 98 percent of lawn and landscaping professionals rely on referrals to get new clients. That means your business lives or dies by how your customers feel about you.
Just have a look at the Better Business Bureau's tips to picking a lawn care provider. It recommends that consumers ask for references and examples of past jobs as well as check on other properties a company has worked on. You better believe past customers won't hesitate to complain about your work if they've had a bad experience. On the other hand, a customer's glowing review may be enough to convince a potential client to take your company on.
What this all boils down to is one important goal: keep your customers happy so they help you find new business. To help you do this, here are six things your lawn care or landscaping company should consider.
1. Communicate Regularly
In any industry, communication is key to a good client-business relationship. You should understand your clients' needs while making sure they understand your limitations. If they expect more than you can realistically offer, they will inevitably be disappointed.
To prevent this and to foster good communication, send a follow-up email after each visit to a client. Your email should highlight anything of note, such as decisions you agreed on and questions that were asked. Be sure to ask your client for feedback so you can course correct if needed, and answer their questions promptly. Whenever possible, eliminate avenues for miscommunication.
2. Make Sure Bills Are Clear and Understandable
A major point of concern for many customers is a vague, illegible invoice or bill. Clients may say things like, "What's that dollar amount for? I thought it was this much. What am I even paying for?" And that confusion quickly turns to anger if they think they've been misled.
To avoid this, create precise invoices for your clients. Breakdown costs into individual expenses if you need to. If there have been any price changes, make sure those are communicated beforehand so clients can approve the new price. (See our post about a new website that's connecting landscaping business with customers and that can help you better communicate costs.)
3. Make it Easy to Get in Touch with You
Be available for emergency questions or last-minute concerns. Have your number and email address on your website and your business card. Carry a work cell phone everywhere so you can stay informed.
4. Develop a Policy for Handling Customer Complaints
Despite your best efforts, you'll sometimes run into a customer complaint. Handled correctly, you can salvage a job and keep a client. Handled expertly, you can impress that client so that they're raving to everyone they know about the time and effort you took to fix a problem.
Develop a policy for handling complaints. Sometimes you may need to offer refunds or discounts. Sometimes you may need to fix something for free. Often, in a business that depends so much on referrals, taking a short-term revenue hit is worth it for the long-term benefits.
5. Be Selective about Employees and Subcontractors
Hire trustworthy employees and subcontractors who will represent your company well. Be sure to communicate with them about how client property should be treated and how any issues should be handled. In short, everyone working on a job should be on the same page.
6. Carry General Liability Insurance
Working with tools and heavy equipment around homes and businesses invites a certain amount of danger, so it's no surprise that you could easily damage a client's property. And guess what? That's not going to sit well with them. But General Liability Insurance may cover the claim, letting you quickly resolve the problem and get back in the client's good graces.
What other steps can you take to find more work? Check out the blog post "Freebies, Going Green, and Thinking Local: 3 Ways to Win Landscaping Clients" for more pointers.