Scott Lauersen isn’t just looking to deliver quality service – he’s creating quality customers because of his long-term approach to landscape management and landscaping. Seekers of instant gratification and rock-bottom prices can go elsewhere – Lauersen calls those price shoppers “free agents.” That’s not Lauersen’s game, because his crews go into every job with an attitude that they’re in it for the long haul.
“We establish relationships with our customers,” says Lauersen, president of Lauersen Lawn & Landscape in Hawley, Pa., a leisure destination in the Pocono Mountains with lakes, golf courses and plenty of outdoor recreation. “We come in and take care of their immediate needs, whatever they are looking to accomplish right then. But we always have an eye on what we need to accomplish down the road – what they envision for their properties.”
Lauersen’s background as an office manager at a Lawn Doctor franchise, followed by a role at a golf course in the Poconos, planted the seeds for systems and high standards that he carries out today in his business, which launched in fall 2003. With a career of learning under his belt, Lauersen was prepared to put his skills to practice in his own venture. And his ideas were quite different than other mow-and-go maintenance start-ups.
“I was looking to establish a business where I could employ a number of people, pay them comfortably, put a name out there and then move into doing more high-end work,” says Lauersen, relating that the company’s service menu spans from maintenance to hardscape installation, a favorite of his. About 65 percent of the primarily residential business falls into the maintenance/lawn care category, with one dedicated crew of three men who focus on these efforts. The landscape crew manages installation jobs.
After nine years in business, Lauersen has very gradually grown the company to employ five professionals – his maintenance foreman has 20 years of experience – and cultivated a client base that appreciates quality care.
“We find that through our process, we create quality customers who are committed to the company, and we are committed to them,” he says.
Committed customers. Finishing touches are a big deal for Lauersen Lawn & Landscape. If cutting a lawn takes longer because the crew uses a diamond striping technique, actually going over the lawn two times, then so be it. “We don’t leave anything looking shoddy,” Lauersen says simply. “We’ll take the extra time to do what is needed.”
Lauersen sets the stage for a different experience when he first meets with clients.
“I try to determine their long-term goals for their lawn and landscape,” he says. “A landscape is constantly evolving with the growth of plants, and things age. So we start by asking, ‘Where do you see your landscape and property moving in the future years?’ Then, we try to cater to that desire.”
After understanding clients’ ultimate goals for their properties, Lauersen builds a maintenance, lawn care and/or landscaping program to suit their specific needs.
For example, a maintenance client with a neglected yard wants thick, lush grass – a showcase lawn, as Lauersen puts it. Knowing this, Lauersen examines the lawn to determine its current state, diagnosing any weed or disease issues and identifying any trouble spots – dry patches, areas that get less/more sun, less/more moisture, etc. He performs a full workup, just as a doctor might do during a physical exam.
From there, he presents a plan to the client, helping them understand the cultural steps necessary to improve the troubled lawn.
“We give them our plan of attack that might start with removing weeds,” he says.
“Or, we may determine that we need to thicken the turf right out of the gate, so we see the lawn and get it to the point where we can use weed control products and improve the color.”
Lauersen checks soil pH. He digs into the turf profile for answers rather than signing up clients for a cookie-cutter program. “It’s not an overnight process,” he says of the way his company cares for lawns. “You know you have to dedicate some time and procedures to get the lawn to the point where the client has the showcase lawn they want.”
But that’s OK with Lauersen, and it’s fine with customers, too, because they understand that they are investing in a process, not paying for a transaction: a cut, a fertilizer application, a weed treatment.
Lauersen draws them a vivid picture of their future lawn, then walks them through the steps of getting there.
“We offer a quality proposition, not speed and quantity,” Lauersen sums up.
The same approach is applied to the landscaping side of the business. Lauersen may need to explain to customers why a bed looks so sparsely planted. “I use plant spacing so they won’t have problems of looking overgrown,” he says.
And he helps plan installation projects in stages so clients can bite off small portions at a time, or make mini-investments, if you will.
Not only does this long-term approach set realistic expectations for results, it ultimately keeps clients on board. “We have customers that came to us our first year and we continue to get people signed back on for service,” Lauersen says.
Managing client expectations
Convincing customers to be patient is the road to retaining their business.
Customers looking for instant gratification can get disappointed if they order up a green lawn and don’t see results the next week. So managing expectations is a big part of the customer satisfaction picture. Scott Lauersen, president, Lauersen Lawn & Landscape, Hawley, Pa., makes sure that clients understand that getting golf-course appeal takes time.
Ask questions. Lauersen wants to know what clients’ goals are for the property. What do they like or dislike about the property now? What do they wish the site looked like? Where do they see the lawn in the future?
Explain the basics. Offer information on why pH soil testing is important for determining the proper lawn care products and applications. Explain why the lawn has weed and/or disease pressure. Discuss the problem areas and the cause for those. Help customers understand the true state of their lawns, Lauersen says.
Present a plan. Create a plan for clients so they know what you’ll do when on the property, and how long it might take for them to reach their objectives. Set the expectations. And, address what results the customer can expect to see immediately, Lauersen says.
Find more ideas from maintenance companies in the A Cut Above newsletter. www.lawnandlandscape.com/newsletters