Unfortunately, one of the worst stereotypes about contractors is often true: even good ones can find themselves too busy to communicate with their clients between service calls. Feeling stood up, customers begin to wonder if they’re truly getting their money’s worth; even worse, they become vulnerable to competitors’ pick-up lines.
Yet contractors do have the power to keep their clients from acting like a jilted boyfriend or girlfriend. Successful companies build strong relationships with their customers by communicating with them effectively. Kevin Igoe
Just ask Kevin Igoe, co-owner of Your Green Team (YGT), a lawn and landscape company in Plant City, Fla., that specializes in fertilization, plant and tree care and pest control. Igoe and his partner, Shane Karlson, have developed tried-and-true techniques that have earned them near-perfect marks on customer surveys.
“It’s the personal touch of being communicated with regularly,” says Igoe. “Our customers can’t say they never hear from us; they hear from us all the time.”
It’s not just that YGT employs friendly technicians that explain lawn treatments while standing on customers’ doorsteps. Nor is it simply the educational “Time Out cards” that are provided to clients after a service call. No, what clinches the deal is the personal follow-up call from Karlson or Igoe within two weeks. They inquire about customers’ satisfaction and if needed, take additional steps to ensure they’re happy.
It’s time-consuming, yes, but evidence shows that it’s working: Since YGT was founded three years ago, it has grown 45-60 percent per year to more than one million dollars in annual revenue. Although the Tampa metropolitan area remains a highly competitive market for lawn and landscape companies, business continues to flourish.
“You don’t find many people that communicate well in this industry,” Igoe says. “The number one customer complaint is, ‘Once I signed up, I never heard from them anymore.’ We want to be a good, honest company focused on customers. To do that, Shane and I make sure we reach out to our customers personally.”
Karlson came up with the idea for YGT after he sold his previous company, which specialized in commercial landscaping. He didn’t want the headaches of managing a big company, so he created a smaller venture in order to focus on residential work. Then he recruited Igoe, who’d managed fertilization and pest control services for that company, as his partner. Shane Karlson
Your Green Team provides customers with an all-inclusive, monthly program that offers fertilization, pest control, fungicides, tree and plant treatments and free service calls within 24-48 hours. While other companies offer 6-8 treatments per year at a lower price, Igoe stresses that they also try to “up-sell” clients on other products.
Perhaps more unusual is the fact that YGT does not require customers to sign service contracts. “We believe in doing things the old-fashioned way, with a handshake,” says Igoe. “Customers pay by the month. If you’re doing things right, they won’t fire you.”
Although good service and knowledgeable treatments provide the foundation for YGT’s success, impeccable communication is the glue that holds it together. When a technician arrives at a customer’s property for a service call, he communicates his recommendations to the client directly and calls them if they’re not home. That way, the client understands his lawn care issues as well as the prescribed remedy.
“We tell them if there are bugs in their yard and what product we’re using,” Igoe says. “If what we’re doing isn’t working, we find another solution to make it better.”
Hiring and training good techs is absolutely critical to YGT’s success, says Igoe. “We live by the mantra that we’re only as good as our technicians. We hold our guys accountable, and move to another tech if we don’t get results.”
YGT’s Time Out cards help to explain basic problems such as worms, Chinch bugs or funguses. If a customer is not home or reachable by phone, techs leave a Time Out Card with the invoice to ensure the client stays informed about their treatments.
“When competitors come by and try to tell our customers what their problems are, they say they already know about it, because we’ve educated them,” says Igoe.
Karlson and Igoe also track Time Out Cards on a daily basis, using the laptops that are installed in every truck. When they place follow-up calls to customers using this system, they’re able to reference specific treatments and explain remedies in detail.
YGT also sends out customer surveys on a regular basis, and Igoe says that he and Karlson take such feedback seriously and use it to hone their products and services.
YGT mails out company newsletters that offer information on new products, news about the company as well as customer lawn care tips. Email communications are sent out regularly to inform clients of weather changes and to provide advice on watering lawns.
Igoe and Karlson are no strangers to social media, either. They’ve launched pages on Facebook and Twitter, and try to keep them updated on a regular basis. “Our next goal is to get people to ‘Like’ our page that are not already our customers,” Igoe says. “That way, we can grow our network and generate even more referrals.”
Igoe attributes much of YGT’s success to the company’s proactive communications strategy. “Sometimes, when people have been with six or eight companies in the past few years, they’re surprised that we’re actually honest with them,” he says. “When you create a level of trust, it helps you to retain customers.”