The training wheel

A 360-degree approach including soft skills, technical expertise and safety information produces a well-rounded, lawn care technician.

Photo courtesy of Summit Lawns

If a customer has a question, technicians at B&B Lawncare are trained to listen carefully and offer some advice. “We make sure they understand all of the services we offer, and we try to build up their confidence that way so they have the knowledge of everything we can do for the customer,” says Larry Bennett Jr., president of the Richmond, Indiana-based business.

During monthly training meetings, various soft skills are also emphasized. “We talk about empathizing with the customer, being respectful, checking in to see how the customer is doing,” Bennett says. “With us being a smaller operation, that’s what I try to push – giving customers our best work.”

At Guilford Garden & Lawn in Greensboro, North Carolina, a similar approach to serving customers is emphasized to technicians.

In fact, communicating with customers is so important that when a team member’s first language is not English, another technician will introduce that colleague to clients and involve him in customer interactions until a comfort level is established.

“That way, the customer is comfortable not only with me, but also with approaching technicians if there is an issue,” says Eric Campbell, lawn and yard care manager.

Teaching client service.

Erik Sweetser has been serving high-end North Hampton, New Hampshire, clients for 25 years. He has five employees at his business, Green Grass Lawn Care. He personally trains employees to understand the level of quality property owners expect.

That includes staying in touch with customers to inform them of environmental situations. “Last year, we had a lot of drought issues and no one was able to water their lawns, so we kept up with customers to let them know, ‘This is why your applicator is showing up even though your lawn is brown – to control this insect from infiltrating,’” Sweetser says.

He sends up to five newsletters each year to “train” customers; and technicians fill out pre-made forms after every visit to leave behind and educate property owners on what products were applied, what to expect and how to follow up.

Sweetser personally walks technicians through the most common turfgrass problems so they gain an understanding of proper identification. “Certain issues can present themselves almost identically, such as drought stress and grub damage,” he says. “You have to take technicians through the steps of deciding what the issue is.”

Sweetser is currently supporting one of his maintenance employees’ pursuit of lawn care applicator certification. The employee indicated interest in turf treatment last summer.

“I said, ‘OK, what do you see on this lawn? What is that weed?’” Sweetser says, noting how he would test him in the field as he took licensing courses.

Gaining technical expertise.

Every year, Jerry Leary, president of Lawn Pro in Virginia Beach, Virginia, takes his team to the GIE+EXPO in Louisville, Kentucky, to learn from experts. They attend seminars and try out new products. “We gain a lot of knowledge from trade shows,” he says.

At least twice per year, Bennett sends technicians to Purdue University for training courses. These continuing education hours go toward maintaining their applicators’ licenses, Bennett says. The courses also keep technicians engaged in their profession.

Bennett pays for the courses, the travel, hotel and also the time they spend there.

“It’s an incentive for us, knowing they come back with knowledge, and for them, because they are learning and getting paid,” he says.

The training at Purdue gives his team a break from the regular routine, Bennett adds. Also, they can get a boost in their base pay when they continue their education. “That gets our guys excited,” Bennett says.

Read Next

Haul it all

March 2017
Explore the March 2017 Issue

Check out more from this issue and find you next story to read.