Work by the Golden Rule

Features - Lawn Care

Wayne’s Environmental Services keeps its promise to deliver top-notch service as it diversifies service offerings and expands into new territories.

January 9, 2014
Brooke N. Bates

For 40 years, Wayne’s Environmental Services has been known as a company that cares for customers. But since its leaders began to define precisely how they care for customers, the Birmingham-based company has expanded into service offerings and territories that weren’t possible 40 years ago.

Wayne’s began as a pest and termite control company. By the time President Steven Splawn acquired it from founder Wayne Lagel in 2001, the company had about 20,000 customers who were happy with Wayne’s pest control, but shopped elsewhere for services outside that scope.

The new president realized it would be easier for customers to have one provider (and one phone call) to manage similar services.

Though additional services would require different expertise, Splawn knew that success in any discipline boiled down to one basic commitment: to deliver “World Class Service – Every Time.” He defined four core values that supported that commitment, and backed it up with Wayne’s World Class Solutions Money-Back Guarantee.

That commitment became the foundation for the company’s diversification. First came a lawn care service line – offering solutions for weed control, fertilization, trees and shrubs, mosquitoes and fire ants – which has grown to serve 7,000 customers.

In 2009, Wayne’s added landscape maintenance and installation – which has grown even faster than the first. Most recently, Wayne’s launched home services for renovations and remodels.

“Because we had the infrastructure already, we’ve been able to grow,” says Brian Ethridge, lawn and landscape services leader, who joined the company in 2003. The challenge of Wayne’s diversification isn’t just growing numbers, but maintaining quality.

Building expertise.

To be a world-class, multi-disciplined provider – not just a pest control company that offers lawn care – Wayne’s team hones its technical expertise within each discipline.

“Our desire is for all of our professionals to be experts at their craft,” Ethridge says. “To make that a reality, we invest resources in developing and delivering the best training possible.”

Fulfilling the guarantee

As it’s written on the website by Steven Splawn, company president, Wayne’s World Class Solutions Guarantee reads: “We commit to provide you with world-class service every time. If you do not receive world-class results, we will return to your home and resolve the issue at no charge to you. If we fail to resolve your issue in a timely manner, we will refund you for your most recent treatment.”

Ethridge explains the four pillars – and core values – that compose Wayne’s guarantee:

  • Integrity is simply making the right choices in the moment. It can be easy to decide not to address something seemingly small and insignificant, but that’s a mistake, and that’s where larger problems begin.
  • Courage is sometimes required to do what’s right. We want our team to be willing to have a difficult conversation with a customer when necessary.
  • Perseverance is having the drive to stay engaged in a problem until it’s resolved.
  • The character of our company is based on the cumulative decisions and actions of our employees following these values.

Of the hundreds of thousands of services Wayne’s performs annually, only a few take advantage of the money-back guarantee. But, to avoid any hiccups fulfilling the guarantee, each employee in the company – from supervisors to office staff – has the ability to grant it if requested.

“We believe in the services we provide, and the guarantee gives our customers peace of mind knowing we stand behind it,” Ethridge says.

“Whether it’s the guarantee, the service we provide or the way we talk on the phone, our decisions are always based on the perspective of: If we were the customer, how would we want to be treated?”

In 2004, Wayne’s developed a technical services division, pulling the most seasoned staff – with 60 years’ combined industry experience – to lead training. Their efforts begin as soon as new employees are hired, in an orientation course that doubles as evaluation.

“Before any new team members are allowed to perform services solo, they are required to complete one week of classroom training and three weeks of on-the-job training,” Ethridge says. “In that time, they must demonstrate the ability to learn and retain the information, and use it to solve problems presented in real-life situations.”

Through internal training known as Wayne’s Environmental University, multiple forms of monthly education keep employees primed in their respective roles, from whitepapers to train-the-trainer workshops to seasonal best practice sessions. Recently, for example, Ethridge traveled to Wayne’s four facilities, conducting hands-on training to properly calibrate spray rigs, mix and apply pesticide applications and complete corresponding paperwork.

But training isn’t just technical. Because Wayne’s core values are founded on the Golden Rule, employees hear mantras like, “Treat the customer’s property as if it were your own.” Splawn emphasizes these values in weekly video conference culture meetings.

Beyond just talking training, supervisors and service line leaders follow up with coaching in the field to help employees put training into practice, as well as random audits to seek development opportunities.

“Being engaged in the field with our folks is critical to make sure we’re living up to what we put on paper,” Ethridge says.

Measuring results.

For Wayne’s expertise to result in world-class service, it must be matched with execution. While the technical services division focuses on training, service center leaders at each office make sure their teams deliver.

The goal is to solve issues before customers call – and before the money-back guarantee is evoked. Technicians are expected to seek issues proactively before they become bigger problems. But if customers do call in with service requests, complaints or cancellations, call center data is tracked daily so leaders can identify and respond to issues immediately.

“If you drop the ball on any fundamentals, you’ll see it in your daily metrics,” Ethridge says. “It’s very important that you gather data and utilize it to understand where your business is going, but you can’t just sit behind a desk and look at numbers. The numbers are a red flag telling you to get engaged.

“When we see some sort of anomaly in our data showing a change in a specific service plan, route or service, then we get together to figure out what the problem is, what caused it and how to correct it.”

A surge of retreatment requests, for example, could either point to performance or product. Ethridge visits the site to evaluate whether issues are isolated or broad-scaled, whether caused by issues in application (like walking too fast) or environment (like weed resistance).

With this proactive approach to service, employees solve most issues before they become bigger problems. Part of the solution involves open, honest communication with customers about expected results, and part of it involves continued training to prevent future problems. By pairing customer feedback with call center data and internal audits, Wayne’s team tailors coaching opportunities to continually improve service.

“It’s always a work in process, but your retention numbers are proof of your success delivering a quality product and executing your brand’s promises,” Ethridge says, citing Wayne’s retention rate of 85-88 percent. “It’s constantly trying to make sure that we’re living up to what we put on paper.”


The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

Photos courtesy of Wayne’s Environmental Services