Chapter 2: Listen, Listen, Listen (and Respond) to Customer Feedback
Maybe it's obvious that a landscaping company should listen to customer feedback — so why are we going to cover it? These days, connecting with customers is more complicated than simply chatting with them before you cut their lawn. Between Yelp reviews, online surveys, and other emails, landscapers have an unprecedented number of options when it comes to connecting with customers. If you don't take advantage of these tools, you could be missing out.
What One Landscaping CEO Says about Customer Feedback
When asked what he couldn't do without at his landscaping business,
an online marketplace that connects homeowners to lawn care professionals
responds with two words: "Customer feedback." For Clayton, this feedback keeps his business moving in the right direction. And as a 15-year veteran of the landscaping industry, he would know.
Clayton hasn't just run one successful landscaping business — he's run two. While still in high school, Clayton began cutting lawns, and after 15 years of hard work, grew his first business into a 125-employee enterprise. In 2013, Clayton sold that business and launched GreenPal.
All that experience — cutting lawns for more than a decade, running a business, and building a customer-centric online platform — makes Clayton acutely aware of the importance of responding to customer needs. We asked Clayton about his approach to customer feedback. Here are his thoughts:
- Collect customer emails. These days it's imperative that landscape contractors collect customer email addresses. This can be accomplished by building it into your quoting process. Capture your clients' emails as you would a street address or phone number.
- Take customer surveys. After work is completed, solicit feedback from the client by using a questionnaire built on Typeform . It's easy, trackable, and repeatable. When building the questionnaire, keep it short and simple, preferably under five quick questions. Try not to ask just yes or no questions. Moreover, try to get your customer to tell a story. Ask questions such as "What set us apart from other contractors that you were considering?" or "If there was anything that we could have done better, what would it be?"
- Prioritize collecting feedback. Customer comments and feedback may not be urgent on your to-do list of items to keep production rolling, but that doesn't mean that client feedback isn't critically important to building a successful landscaping company. In order to improve, landscape contractors need to add time to their weekly habits to monitor how customers are responding to their feedback questionnaires.
- Keep an open mind. Client feedback is so valuable because it can open up all kinds of otherwise unseen opportunities to improve the business. Investing in addressing customer insights will provide, over time, compounding improvement in the business by delighting more customers and driving profitability. For example, the answer to the question "What made you choose us over one of our competitors?" can inform the business owner on what specifically is their unique value proposition. This customer insight can then be applied to many other parts of the business, such as marketing materials, the website, or in-person sales pitches.
- "Double down" on good feedback. Take the positive feedback as a sign of what your company is good at, and as an indicator of areas where your business can double down. When receiving positive feedback, take the opportunity to convert that customer into an influencer by asking them to leave a public review for your company on popular review sites such as Google+, Facebook, Yelp, or Angie's List. Positive public reviews can build real momentum for earning visibility for the business and attracting new customers.
- Be humble. Negative feedback needs to be handled humbly and in context. In reality, there will always be a small percentage of customers that a landscape contractor can't please. However, it's important to be open to critical feedback. No one is perfect and candid feedback helps us understand where we need to be making improvements to better service our customers.
Clayton's advice to stay humble is right on target. Customer disputes can lead to lawsuits. But you can prevent many lawsuits simply by addressing a problem before it blows up. Training your staff to properly handle complaints and report issues will help you avoid costly legal bills that come with business disputes. To learn more about covering third-party property damage and other landscaping lawsuits, see General Liability Insurance.
“Make collecting customer feedback a priority, even if it's not on the list of urgent to-dos.” — Bryan Clayton, founder of GreenPal
Customer Feedback Is Also a Way to Market Your Business
On insureon's By the Numbers page, we discuss how often landscapers rely on customer referrals. In fact, according to the Lawn and Landscape: State of the Industry Report , 98 percent of landscapers use customer referrals as a key marketing strategy. Nowadays, referrals don't just come through word of mouth. They can come from online reviews, too: Yelp reviews, Facebook posts, and other digital venues.
As Clayton suggests, you want to figure out which customers like your business and ask them to leave positive feedback on your Yelp / Google+ / Angie's List page. These sites generally prohibit you from rewarding customers for leaving good feedback, so keep things transparent. Simply encourage them, but don't offer them an incentive.
Yelp allows small-business owners to respond to feedback. If a customer leaves a negative review, you can, as Clayton advises, post a measured, understanding response to address the issue. If a customer leaves a great review, you can thank them.
Taking these steps helps you market your business. By responding to customers, you'll show potential customers that you…
- Engage with your clientele.
- Take their complaints seriously.
- Act professionally.
Collecting Customer Feedback Helps You Keep Customers
LawnStarter points out that there's a subtle benefit to collecting customer feedback that can pay off in a big way. One of the best ways to keep your current customers is to regularly communicate with them. To help you retain a solid base of revenue, you can…
- Ask for feedback.
- Cultivate a mailing list.
- Check in frequently.
Keeping these lines of communication open can pay off in a big way. For example, a BIA Kelsey report shows that repeat customers spend 67 percent more than new customers (see Fig. 1). That means that for every dollar of services you can sell to a new customer, you'll be able to sell $1.67 to an existing customer.
A Help Scout report offers even more insight into value of new versus existing customers. While you typically have about a 20 percent chance of selling to a new customer, you've got a 50 to 60 percent chance of selling to an existing customer — almost three times higher (see Fig. 2)!
The takeaway? Whenever you introduce new services or shift your seasonal offerings, be sure to market to your existing customers. They may be interested and prove a valuable source of revenue.
98% of landscapers rely on customer referrals.
Final Thoughts about Connecting with Customers
In this chapter, we discussed the critical role of customer feedback to business growth. To use feedback to help your business grow, try these simple tips:
- Collect client emails in the quote process and send customer surveys after a job is done. Those addresses give you a simple way to collect data digitally.
- Ask for referrals — they're vital to your growth!
- Make calendar reminders to check your reviews on Yelp, Google+, and other review sites. When you have a happy customer, ask them to leave a review on one of these sites.
- Pay attention to the feedback you get. Address concerns and keep doing the things people like — and thank everyone who gives you feedback, because it's all valuable.
Next: Ch. 3: Don't Be Afraid of Technology