It’s all about relationships

Features - Technology

CRM software helps you keep in contact with current customers and save money finding new ones.

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March 14, 2016
Katie Tuttle
© Askold Romanov | Thinkstock

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a way to make sure account managers are staying in contact with the most important people in the company: their customers. While the term may be unfamiliar to you, a lot of businesses already have forms of CRM software implemented without realizing it.

Getting started.

Setup for your system will vary depending on what exactly you’re implementing, and the same is true with training, says Mark Dealy, owner of Bellingham, Washington-based Dependable Yardcare & Landscapes.

“For how long (training) takes, it really depends on how intense you utilize those tools,” says Dealy, who uses CLIP Software for his six employees and approximately 200 customers. It also depends on your employees.

“As far as training goes, I find the younger somebody is, the easier it is for them to get in and find out themselves,” says Marcus Kerske, co-owner of Gardens of Babylon in Nashville, Tennessee.

Some software companies offer one-on-one sessions, while others offer online resources.

“One thing that I love to death is if I have a question, I can submit a support ticket and in a matter of minutes, someone responds to that issue,” says Kerske, whose company has 65 employees and 1,000 customers.

Keller Ross is the general manager of Henkel Denmark in Lexington, Kentucky. His company currently has 75 employees and 375 clients. Ross takes advantage of Boss LM’s Boss U monthly introductory course and sends employees to learn how to use the whole system.

“Even though someone is in administration, they’re going to be touching other parts of Boss, so it’ll show them what other people are seeing and (how) your part of Boss talks to other parts of Boss,” he says.

In action.

After training your crew, they need to be able to use the software in the field, which requires tablets or smart phones. Some software only works with Android or Apple systems, while others work with both.

You also have to decide who owns the device. Henkel Denmark supplies AT&T-based tablets to all account managers with the company.

Jim Zylstra, owner of Tuff Turf Molebusters in Byron Center, Michigan, says he requires all employees to provide their own Android-based device. He currently has 16 employees and 3,500 clients.

“If I interview you and you have Apple, they know they have to switch,” he says.

When they made the initial switch to Android, Zylstra says he had one existing employee with an Apple system who was upset.

“He grumbled a lot, so I told him I’d help him out to make it not such a financial burden,” he says. “But after he switched he said it was fine.”

Data management.

Zylstra says he uses Real Green Systems’ software to keep tabs on customers, as well as non-customers.

“I can have images. I can know who they are,” he says.

If you purchase the information of local residential data within the software, you will have access to that information.

“If my guys are on a route and a neighbor walks up and wants to know a price, they can pull them up and see everything on their phones,” he says.

He says it also helps with potential customers because with one click of a button, you can tell them every person in a specific radius that you already service.

Zylstra says you can also use this information for targeting potential customers because you’re able to see who on a street you don’t service.

Proposals.

Once you have potential customers on your radar, the next step in your process should be to offer them proposals. While that may seem simple, since it’s a major part of any landscape job, CRM software can make it simpler.

However, according to Kerske, making a process simpler isn’t quite as simple in the initial setup.

Kerske uses Boss LM software and he says it provides a good way to create accurate bids, but the setup for that process can take months to perfect.

“The main thing that takes time is building the service catalogue – all your service items,” he says.

A service catalogue is basically a listing of every single material and service you can provide for your customers.

“You have to put in every single thing you use and a price to it,” Ross says. “Every plant you use, every labor you use.”

The team at Gardens of Babylon uses its CRM software to create accurate bids for customers.

When all of your items have been added, you start bundling things together.

For example, when you plant a tree, you’re always going to charge for the tree, the labor, the mulch and the tree stake. Those four things get bundled in a “tree planting package,” making it easier to select services.

Ross says it took him about four months to get his company’s service catalogue done, but now it makes it easy to provide a customer with an accurate estimate.Kerske says it also helps you understand how you should be bidding as well.

“It’s really helpful for a company that might not have a take on how many acres a 36-inch mower can mow,” he says.

Zylstra uses the measuring assistant part of Real Green’s software to quickly pull up a lawn, measure it and save the image to an account for future reference.

“We actually email all our measurements with a quote so a homeowner can say they want more or less,” he says. “That immediately saved me at least $7,000 a year on labor and running around.”

Billing.

Gragg says his company first started using ArborGold’s software for the billing process.

“Before, our sales people would create their proposals on Excel spreadsheets, then they would do the work and we would have some fumblings and issues with billing,” he says.

If things were changed during installation (example, more or less mulch used than listed in the proposal), that could get lost between the crew and the sales person. Now, that information can be inputted directly into the system by the installation crew, and the sales person’s proposal is updated.

In some situations, you’re also able to combine your old system with your new.

“All of our billing is done through CLIP to link with Quickbooks,” says Dealy. “So customers get bills from Quickbooks.”

Even if the software combines, Gragg says that was the hardest part of making the switch.

“The one that had the trouble the most was our billing department,” he says, “because they live in Quickbooks.” He said the software integrated with Quickbooks, but his team was so ingrained in it, they didn’t want to jump over and use this other system.

“We finally sat down one-on-one for a few sessions and really showed her how it was capable of doing everything she wanted to do if she just gave it a chance,” he says. “Now she’s one of the biggest fans.”