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What’s the No. 1 water management question your customers ask and how do you answer it?

September 19, 2022 -  By
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Design-build pros say they choose skid-steers based on factors such as ergonomic features, intended application, gross weight and more. (Photo: John Deere)

Questions on monthly water bill variance and service costs are common among customers, experts say. (Photo: OlenaMykhaylova/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

What’s the No. 1 water management question your customers ask and how do you answer it?

 

Chad Sutton

Chad Sutton

Chad Sutton
Water Resource Manager, Gachina Landscape Management
Menlo Park, Calif.

The No. 1 question we get is, ‘Why is my water bill higher this month compared to the same month in the year prior?’ The first thing that we look to answer is the question of whether this is usage-related or climate-related. We help explain that weather patterns aren’t always the same year over year, especially in the winter and spring months when rainfall can be highly variable. We also investigate any site changes. Did we install and establish new areas of plant material? In those cases, it’s related to choices we made to use more water. However, those past decisions aren’t spelled out on the water bill. Everybody’s trying to live off a budget, and if costs increase without remembering why, our clients rightfully want to know what happened. It’s our job to help prepare them for that cost increase and remind them after the fact. There can be many more factors for increased usage as well, and we help resolve those too. Whatever the reason for the increase, proactive communication is essential.

Paul Schultz

Paul Schultz

Paul Schultz
Irrigation Resource Manager, Cagwin & Dorward
Petaluma, Calif.

When the state tells you that you can’t water certain sections of turf, people will start asking: ‘Is this the time that they consider replacing it?’ When customers ask, ‘Can we afford to get rid of grass?’ we tell them we have to look at the cost of replacing it, we have to look at the cost of the water that might help offset the cost of the work — in other words, the return on investment. We have to look at things like rebates and we also have to take into consideration other costs that might go down, such as the repair of fences and driveways where we’re not causing damage from an existing system. Also, the natural cost of having to replace equipment over time. Sprinkler heads don’t last forever. We also try to get them to understand how (removing turf) will make their property look — it helps freshen things up. It adds a little more visual intrigue and that in itself may add value to the property and make it more attractive for homeowners and investors.

Russ Jundt

Russ Jundt

Russ Jundt
Founder and Owner, Conserva Irrigation
Glen Allen, Va.

I am frustrated by commercial property managers or owners asking the wrong question: ‘How much do your services cost?’ or ‘What is your labor rate?’ From there, I developed a sales technique that ‘leads the witness,’ meaning we lead our prospective customers in the sales process to ask the right question, ‘How much water should we be using on our property during a weather-normal year?’ Most don’t even know that a methodology exists whereby we can develop a water usage and water cost budget for their specific property. Knowing that, we ask, ‘How much water do you use on average to water your landscape each season?’ followed by, ‘How much water should you be using to water your landscape each season?’ The first question they can easily answer by pulling their water bills, assuming they have a separate irrigation meter. The second usually is met with a puzzled look. Conserva developed a proprietary methodology where we can accurately estimate the amount of water and money that it takes to water their property during a weather-normal season.

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