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The mistake many companies will make in 2020

February 13, 2020 -  By
Customer with credit card (Photo: sturti/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Photo: sturti/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Recently I read an article in the New York Times about the ambitious plans Sweetgreen, a chain of salad restaurants, has embarked on. Started in 2007 by a group of young college grads with a single storefront in D.C., the company was an early success; today it boasts 103 outlets and an astounding valuation of $1.6 billion. Now the company is busy mapping out a path to 1,000 stores and turning to the efficiencies of technology to do it.

To any entrepreneur, this is fascinating, inspiring stuff. I have seen firsthand at my own landscaping company the difference that technology can make, from the Aspire software we switched to and the digital schedule boards we’ve installed to the crew and equipment tracking our InfoHub monitors enable us to do. We equip our sales designers with iPads to demo our past projects on sales calls, and under our general manager’s lead, our office has now gone paperless. I can promise you we will continue to seek out the latest developments in technology for the competitive edge they can give us.

But I also believe you shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of human interaction in business. The folks at Sweetgreen are testing out a new store format in which customers can order meals through an app and pick them up from an alphabetized shelf without ever seeing or speaking to a Sweetgreen employee. They may save on labor by doing this, but without the human touch, they also stand a good chance of eroding their customers’ loyalty. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to know who’s making my food, to have a person to speak with if I have a question or a concern or to just exchange hellos with people who work in my community. Simply put, I care more about establishments that have shown they care about me, and I’m much more likely to give those places my business.

I think there’s a good lesson in this for the landscaping industry. Yes, you should make sure you have a good website that works as well on mobile as it does on desktop with photos that showcase your best work. But you should also be sure you’re telling your company’s story on your site, highlighting your ties to the community and displaying the names and headshots of at least your leadership team. I can’t tell you how many company websites I’ve seen that don’t share this information, and in the process, they miss out on a simple but great opportunity to connect with prospects and clients and to stand out from a sea of faceless competition.

The same is true with answering your phones and responding to inquiries. Sure, phone services and chatbots are convenient, but they can’t replace the personal touch of having an actual team member respond with a warm, friendly greeting. Email is efficient, but it can’t compete with a handwritten note from a company owner. It’s important to get your crews on and off job sites in good time, but it only takes a minute for them to knock on a door, introduce themselves and let your clients know what work they’ll be doing on their property that day, and another minute to let them know again when they’re done.

When you get right down to it, we have a tremendous advantage in our industry in that all landscaping is local. Yes, embrace technology for the advantages it can deliver, but don’t lose sight of the power of the personal touch to deepen your connection to your community — and theirs to you.

See you next month!

Marty Grunder

About the Author:

Marty Grunder is president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co. and The Grow Group, based in Dayton, Ohio.

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