Five-star service: An overlooked differentiator

October 22, 2019 -  By
Five-Star Service Graphic (Graphic: Jeffrey Scott)

Graphic: Jeffrey Scott

In this go-go economy, many business owners today struggle to provide excellent customer service. Their service is inconsistent and reactionary, and it will ultimately harm their business.

The root of the problem is the false belief that excellent service is a luxury they can sacrifice: choosing short-term profit over sustainable growth.

The next recession will remind everyone of the enormity of that mistake. Companies that deliver anything less than five-star service will fall to the back of the pack.

Even today, companies that make five-star service a priority have already seized a competitive edge. They’re growing faster than you now! Don’t let them outperform you in the next downturn as well.

Build a customer-centric culture

Your landscaping, lawn care or irrigation business is an extension of the owner’s personality. The actions you take daily determine how your business grows. Start by looking at how you treat your employees: They are your internal customers. Your daily choices there directly affect how your team treats your customers. By intentionally building an employee-centered culture, you create the conditions for a customer-centered business. And that sets you on a path to sustainable success. (See image at right.)

Define your standards

Creating a culture of service starts with clarifying your sales and operating standards, namely your: 

  • Response times;
  • Levels of communication;
  • Efforts invested in solving client and job problems; and
  • Nonnegotiable policies.

Without these firmly in place, you won’t excel in the heat of the season. It’s best to put these standards in place when your company is smaller. But the next-best time to do it is right now!

Invest in your employees like you invest in equipment

When it comes to purchasing and maintaining equipment, you’re not solely motivated by price. You want great outcomes in less time. That’s how you must think about employee training. Stop seeing it as a cost center and start seeing it as a revenue generator. Be willing to invest consistently in your people so they can perform at their peak. Not only does this approach boost profitability and cash flow, it creates a deeper sense of staff loyalty.

Distinguish between training, results and guidelines. Training teaches employees how to do a task or solve a problem. Results teach them to understand why their training and the goals you want them to achieve matter.

Guidelines allow them to think for themselves and solve difficult challenges. These elements, when combined, empower employees to achieve customer service excellence.

Be selective in who you serve

In my coaching programs, I counsel owners and leaders on what I call Green Light Selling and screening. It’s critical to focus your business operations squarely on your Green Light Customers — the clients who believe what you believe and want what you sell. Conversely, if you distract yourself with Red Light Clients — the complainers and shoppers — all your well-meaning work will be undermined.

Track service failures to improve

You must learn to be a data scientist to excel in this business. By taking time to track customer complaints and go-backs, you’ll get the facts needed to tackle your blind spots and create operational excellence. You’ll discover the reasons for customer callbacks, who is involved in cases and the underlying reasons for the service failures.

Summing up, many leaders think success comes from what they do and not how they do it. But it’s the other way around.

How you think about the role of customer service determines your success at delivering excellence and achieving growth. By embracing five-star service, you position yourself and your landscaping company for greater profitability — now and into the future.

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Jeffrey Scott

About the Author:

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the Green Industry. His expertise is rooted in his personal success, growing his own company into a $10 million enterprise. Now, he facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners—members achieve a 27 percent profit increase in their first year. To learn more visit www.GetTheLeadersEdge.com.

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