Nobody ever likes to get that dreaded phone call – the one where a client is canceling services.
But there are some steps companies can take to limit cancellations, track them to learn from their mistakes and get those customers back in the future. Andrew Wesselman, of A&A Lawn Care, and Beth Berry, vice president of business development for Real Green Systems, detailed these steps during Solutions 2021 Virtual in early January.
Berry holds the “Code Red: How to Save a Customer Before They Cancel” session every year.
“This isn’t anything new,” she says. “And some of it is not preventable.”
While it may not be new, Berry says the conversation is especially important this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“You’ll need to evaluate cancellations very carefully this year,” she says.
Whether its financial or health-oriented, Berry and Wesselman say COVID-19 has certainly caused more customers to re-evaluate their lawn care needs.
People lost their jobs, or their employment may be unstable, so they’re looking to cut costs. According to Berry, as the coronavirus crisis continued, more people had their awareness or concern heightened – leading them to question the essential status of the service.
Other common reasons for cancellations in 2020 were results, weather, service, renovation, DIY and price increase.
“This year we saw a lot of DIYers,” Berry says. “Many homeowners spent a lot more time at home and out in their lawn.”
She adds that while customers take the reins for their own lawn care, people staying at home more also caused renovations projects to skyrocket. This in turn led them to cancel services as the improvement projects were underway.
In terms of price, Wesselman and Berry say companies should track how many canceled clients are switching to a less expensive competitor.
“You’ll want to know how many people are going to that new player in town,” Berry says. And if it’s a lot, she suggests reevaluating pricing.
On the other hand, Berry is a proponent of slowly increasing prices every year. She recommends aiming for a 2% annual increase.
Wesselman adds that when tracking cancellations based on results and services, there is value in breaking those down by such factors as weeds, color or pest breakthrough.
“But don’t break it down too far,” he warns. “Or it gets too confusing and you won’t do anything with that data.”
Wesselman also says the best way to combat these common occurrences is being upfront with customers from the get-go.
“Educate the customers and get the expectations set up front,” he says.
Berry and Wesselman also pinpointed some expected reasons for cancellations in 2021.
Attorney General demands, water conservancy, pesticide sensitivity and new EPA and government leadership could all impact retention.
“Across the United States, many municipalities have implemented pesticide regulations,” Berry says. “And water conservancy is on the heels of that…The way our products work well is usually in conjunction with water.”
Berry says that with a new president – and new EPA director – more stringent environmental orders may go into place.
“That will impact our industry and could certainly impact the products we use and, subsequently, satisfaction and retention,” she says.
Solving the problem.
To combat these cancellations, Berry says companies should come up with a “Cancel Save Bootcamp.” She gives four steps for training employees during this learning opportunity, which she says should be “all hands on deck.”
The first step is to share the financial data. “Everyone should understand the impact to the organization,” Berry says.
Berry advises sharing the following information with your team:
- Annual marketing budget
- Cost per lead
- Cost per sale
- Total number of prior year sales
- Total dollar amount of prior year sales
- Total number of prior year cancels
- Total dollar amount of prior year cancels
Step 2 is all about tracking cancellations and performing a deep dive into them by reasons. Next, companies should gather feedback from all attendees.
“You want to review this with everyone in the same room,” Berry says. “There’s something about the comradery of it…you’ll get some inside data when you get people to open up.”
The final step is creating an action plan for every cancellation reason.
Strategies to create this action plan include assigning teams by reason across all departments, incentivizing teams for measurable improvements, creating a cancel transfer protocol and establishing meaningful and targeted reinstation campaigns.
“You have to come up with a better game plan for next time,” Berry says. “The way you win back customers is that you know why they canceled and have a better alternative.”
Robin Autopilot partners with TurfBot Mowing
TurfBot operates under the Weed Man umbrella, which ranked No. 8 on our recent Top 100 list.
DALLAS – Robin Autopilot USA, a robotic mowing technology company, entered into a partnership with TurfBot Mowing, a brand under the Weed Man USA ownership umbrella.
Under the new partnership, TurfBot franchises will offer robotic mowing services powered by Robin’s technology. TurfBot franchises will have access to all of the tools and resources available through the Robin platform, including patented products, proprietary software, e-learning and training services and marketing collateral.
Ranked as the eighth-largest company on the 2020 Lawn & Landscape Top 100, based on 2019 revenue, Weed Man expanded into the robotic mowing business when it launched TurfBot in 2018 to test the concept, recognizing the benefits of offering battery-powered and emissions-free robotic mowing services to customers. TurfBot currently operates in three locations and plans for aggressive expansion plans in 2022.
“We are proud to partner with Weed Man, which has a long and outstanding history as a pioneer and leader in the North American market for lawn care services,” said Logan Fahey, chief executive officer of Robin Autopilot. “We are creating a strong new force in the lawn and landscaping market that will help both of our companies continue our growth as we provide more customers with the opportunity to adopt robotic mowing technology.”
“Robin Autopilot was the obvious choice for us in our search for a partner with cutting-edge technology and expertise that would help us grow in the exciting robotic mowing industry,” said Jennifer Lemcke, chief executive officer of Weed Man. “We believe robotic mowing has a bright future, and we look forward to working with Robin to continue the transformation of the lawn care industry through the wide-ranging environmental and economic benefits of this new technology.”
Stay Green acquires Emerald Landscape Services
The Stay Green executive team will work closely with Emerald’s 134 employees to ensure a smooth transition.
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – California-based Stay Green recently acquired Emerald Landscape Services, a commercial landscape maintenance company based out of Anaheim, California. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“What drew Stay Green to Emerald was the shared values of how business should be conducted – treating employees well and partnering with valued clients,” said Chris Angelo, Stay Green CEO. “They have the experience, resources, and capabilities to allow Stay Green to grow in the Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties."
The acquisition of Emerald gives Stay Green access to a larger segment of the business community. Their existing client base consists of Class A office facilities, industrial, HOA, hospitality, retail and municipality clients.
“It was apparent to us that joining the Stay Green family was the right move. Caring for their employees, clients and community is a shared value of Emerald’s and key component on which Stay Green was founded," said Emerald Landscape Services owner John Croul. "We have no doubt that they will provide the previous Emerald clients with the same exceptional service they are known for industry wide."
Emerald will now operate under the leadership of Stay Green, which ranked No. 81 on Lawn & Landscape’s annual Top 100 list last year. The Stay Green executive team will work closely with Emerald, their preexisting management, and their 134 employees over the next several months to train them on Stay Green’s best practices.
BrightView acquires Cutting Edge Property Maintenance
Cutting Edge Property Maintenance was founded in 2005.
BLUE BELL, Pa. – BrightView has acquired Cutting Edge Property Maintenance based in Plymouth, Minn. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“Cutting Edge has earned a reputation for providing superior service, which creates lasting client satisfaction,” said BrightView President and CEO Andrew Masterman. “They have the expertise and capabilities to provide a full suite of winter services, landscape maintenance and enhancements, tree care and irrigation services. This deal brings a service leader in a desirable Upper Midwest market into the BrightView family along with more than 110 skilled team members.”
Cutting Edge Property Maintenance was founded in 2005.
“We could genuinely tell BrightView’s executive team cares about their people, which was an important factor in our decision-making process,” said Ryan Comer, Cutting Edge founder and CEO. “We are confident that joining BrightView will provide opportunities for both our employees and our customers. BrightView is a first-class organization that the Minneapolis market is fortunate to have.”
CCG Advisors facilitated the deal.
Lawn Doctor’s John Buechner dies at 68
Buechner was a past president of PLCAA (now known as NALP).
John Buechner, 68, died on December 22 after a year-long battle with cancer.
Buechner was born in Indiana and spent his childhood in Fort Wayne. He graduated from R. Nelson Snider High School in 1971 and received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Purdue University in 1975.
Once COVID-19 concerns subside, the family intends to host a life celebration at their church in Pennsylvania. He retired from Lawn Doctor three years ago and relocated to North Carolina with his wife.
Buechner was a past president of PLCAA (now known as NALP), The New Jersey Turfgrass Association and also The New Jersey Green industry Council. In 2002, Buechner was a Lawn & Landscape Magazine Industry Leadership award winner.
Buechner joined Lawn Doctor in 1984 and retired in 2018 after 34 years.
SavATree merges with Arborwell Professional Tree Management
Operations include a corporate office in Hayward, California.
BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. – SavATree, which offers professional tree and shrub care, has merged with Arborwell Professional Tree Management of California and Washington.
Operations include a corporate office in Hayward, California, plus six core branches located in Oakland, Redwood City, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose and Seattle.
Founded by Peter Sortwell in 2001, Arborwell has become a provider of commercial tree care and management services on the West Coast.
“We welcome Arborwell’s talented team to the SavATree family,” said Carmine Schiavone, CEO of SavATree.
“Arborwell’s extensive knowledge of the West Coast’s unique tree care needs and experience working with an impressive scope of clientele will add a great partner to the SavATree family.”
SavATree ranked No. 13 on Lawn & Landscape’s annual Top 100 list last year. “SavATree shares our same core values and high-quality standards, making this a great fit to move the company forward and provide clients with continued expert service and our employees with additional professional growth opportunities," said Peter Sortwell, CEO and founder of Arborwell.
Aspire acquires Crew Control
The scheduling application will extend Aspire’s reach to smaller contractors in the green industry.
Aspire has acquired Crew Control, a scheduling software application built for the needs of smaller lawn care and landscaping companies. Crew Control is an application that simplifies the scheduling process for these contractors.
Crew Control was founded in 2018. Its founders, David Vroblesky and Daniel Higgins, are respectively joining Aspire as product manager and senior developer and will focus on the future growth of the Crew Control solution.
Ruppert Landscape adds branch, promotes Tom Flint
Flint will lead the new location in Dulles, Virginia.
LAYTONSVILLE, Md. – Ruppert Landscape has expanded its landscape management operations to include a new location in Dulles, Virginia. This branch joins six existing landscape management branches in Virginia – Gainesville, Alexandria, Fredericksburg and Richmond (north, south and east) – and will serve existing customers as well as new growth in the region.
“Every time we grow in the markets we serve, it gives us more density, which means less travel time to our jobs and provides more value to our customers,” said Fred Key, region vice president. “Perhaps most importantly, it allows us to provide growth opportunities for our employees.”
The Dulles branch will be led by Tom Flint, who has recently been promoted to branch manager.
Flint attended Millersville University and has over 34 years of experience in the landscape industry. He joined Ruppert in 2012 as an area manager in the company’s Alexandria branch and broke division sales records. He was recognized with the company’s Branch Impact Award two years in a row for his dedication and contributions to the Alexandria team. He transferred to the company’s Laytonsville branch in 2015, and he was one of the first graduates of Ruppert’s Associate Branch Manager leadership development program, which was designed to prepare talented team members to take on future opportunities.
As branch manager, Flint will be responsible for the overall welfare of the Dulles branch, including the safety and development of his team, strategic planning and budgeting, training, customer service, and day-to-day operations.
“Over the past several years, Tom has been instrumental in helping to lead the Laytonsville team and in building strong customer relationships,” Key said. “We are always happy when our company’s growth provides opportunity for high achievers like Tom to continue to achieve their career goals. We are confident that his experience and leadership will be a good fit for our customers and our team.”
Irrigation Association appoints four new board members
These individuals started their three-year terms Dec. 11.
FAIRFAX, Va. – The Irrigation Association recently appointed four new members to the IA Board of Directors.
- John McPhee, general manager of irrigation and lighting for The Toro Co. (Riverside, CA)
- Katie Powell, president of Munro Cos. (Grand Junction, CO)
- Michael Roberts, PhD, director for Rain Bird Corp. (Tucson, AZ)
- Ted Santiesteban, director of operations for Irrigation Components International (Daphne, AL)
These individuals started their three-year terms Dec. 11 and joined the 11 other members who are continuing their terms from previous years. The IA Board is made up of 15 people.
“These four individuals bring a diverse and broad base of industry experience and expertise to the IA board,” said IA CEO Deborah Hamlin. “As the IA continues to work to support its members during this unique time, we appreciate the efforts that these new and current directors devote to the association and its goals to advance the industry and promote efficient irrigation.”