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Meeting customer expectations is ultimate key to success

December 16, 2009 -  By

By: Bill Hoopes

It’s certainly been a challenging year. In the home services end of the Green Industry, smart, positive operators have worked diligently to accomplish two things: first, to sell more of our services and, second, maximize customer retention. Impossible, you say? With the economy dictating a drop-off in discretionary spending and TV networks repeating the now worn-out mantra “people aren’t spending, people aren’t spending,” it’s been tough — but not impossible.

Some of us, those with industry tenure, have been down this road before. Though this has been the deepest recession since the inception of most Green Industry services, it is still a recession, not the catastrophe some predicted.

Sadly, many of us, looking and listening to the negative economic news of the past 12 months and fearing the worst, set our goals too low. Defining success in 2009 as “not going backward” has, for some, become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Result: Many businesses have not grown and, in fact, gone backward.

But what’s past is past. Owners and operators who refused to take the negative view learned that, by training hard and focusing on communicating real value for each homeowner or commercial client dollar invested in our prospective customer’s property, we made sales. Often, this translated into closing leads at the same level as in years past, before the recession started. Further, while revenue per sale has typically been down and discounting common, reaching current year goals through expanded in-season selling and maximizing retention is now a very real likelihood.

At this point, no matter how effectively you have or have not marketed and sold, it’s time to meet customer expectations and bring in the business for 2010. Owners and managers must focus on service delivery. Starting at the top of your organization, down to the worker on the job, daily management must emphasize the vital importance of seeing to it our customers do actually receive what we’ve become very good at promising.

In an especially tough year, as each invoice is paid, our customers will more closely evaluate the value of our services — and be even more critical than usual in deciding whether we are meeting expectations that, in large part, we have created. So, stop for a moment now. Ask yourself: Are you prepared and committed to delivering on promises made? Are your services really worth the customer’s hard-earned and highly valued dollars? Make these determinations not from your point of view, but from your customer’s.

We can and, I believe must confirm that each customer understands how and why our services deliver value equal, in their minds, to the investments made. To make it happen, I believe we must work hard in these five areas:

  1. Revisit and reconfirm each and every commitment made. What exactly has each salesperson told the customer to expect? Don’t assume your people clearly understand or buy into the details. Doing this requires ongoing, regular staff meetings with continual communications, top down. Our people must understand that meeting expectations delivers customers, which generate jobs.
  2. Improve in-season, personal customer communications. In the field, we must allow time for and see to it our people engage the customer and, when appropriate, are prepared to answer predictable questions and re-sell the value of our services.
  3. Improve written communications. Leavebehind brochures and situational notes cannot be overlooked. What we did today. What to expect tomorrow. For most customers, this is our major form of communication. Make it count.
  4. Spend more management time in the field with service delivery people. Don’t let first-level supervisors drift off into seemingly important, but often non-critical tasks at the expense of following up with crew members and coaching to maximum productivity and quality work.
  5. Stay on top of training initatives. Provide brief, problem-solution training sessions all year long, as conditions and challenges change.

Here’s hoping my suggestions help. For more information on implementing these ideas, let me hear from you!

LM Staff

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