Christina Custis-Thomas

Departments - Women in Lawn & Landscape

Owner and Chief Sustainability Officer, Arlington Green Mowers

August 19, 2021

Women in Lawn & Landscape is a column brought to you in partnership with the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Photo courtesy of Christina Custis-Thomas

The landscaper’s market in Jacksonville, Fla., is highly competitive. Entry costs are low; if you have a vehicle and a mower, then customers are looking for you. Expectations are minimal; most homeowners pick their landscaper after the initial contact and are not well versed in landscaping or lawn care. If their yard is green and manicured after services are complete, they are happy.

In this environment, maintaining your customer base is the best path to profits. While entry to the market may be easy, hanging on to those customers requires more work. Almost 25% of our new customers are not satisfied with their current service provider.

How do landscape companies lose customers?

They fail to show up when the customer expects you. We get new customers and retain current ones by showing up on time or communicating challenges immediately like an equipment issue or inclement weather. Texting is the preferred method of communication, and we use an automated service so we can send a consistent message to multiple customers.

They don’t take care of everything the customer thought should be done. Each of our customers receives a well-written description of services. We use an automated billing platform but won’t run the first bill until we have checked in to make sure we met their expectations. This establishes our dedication to meeting their expectations and our appreciation for their feedback when things are not quite right.

They don’t consistently produce quality work, regardless of the team onsite. Culture is the foundation of any organization. It is easy to birddog employees making sure everything meets your expectations on every job. It is also exhausting. When we onboard a new employee, we start with our philosophy of how to treat our customers, not how to cut a razor-sharp edge. Our employees see our customers as a pathway to their paycheck and advancement. Pay increases are provided when employees show the ability to work unattended. Our time is better spent finding more business than it is ensuring all of the jobs are completed correctly.

They don’t fully embrace technology. Technology is at the heart of every interaction now; each customer is looking for the Amazon experience. If you are using scratch sheets and collecting cash payment, you are wasting both your time and your customers’ time. The amount of time saved by not tracking payments and scheduling is well worth the cost of an app. More important is the better customer experience. Before and after photos are stored online for review. They can review their billing and payments or request additional work.

They don’t differentiate. We are the only 100% zero-emission landscape company in town, using all battery-operated equipment with sustainable practices. While this provides a niche market, it is not yet sufficient to entirely drive our sales. Maintaining a focus on the customer’s experience ensured 100% customer retention through the off-season last year. We lose fewer than 10% each quarter, with new home sales being our biggest driver of lost customers this year.

Regardless of your company size and service offerings, meeting customer expectations, producing quality work, embracing technology and working to differentiate in your market will lead to increased customer retention. And foundational practices like these allow you to scale your operations today to fuel growth for tomorrow.

Editor’s note: Christina Custis-Thomas is an active member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals Women in Landscape Network (powered by Bayer), which provides a forum for industry professionals to support each other’s professional growth. The Network is free to all industry professionals.