Turf Magazine - July, 2014

FEATURES

So a Customer is Upset, What to do Next?

By Steve Rak II

I have upset customers at times; we all do. There are lots of reasons that customers get upset (more than I can list here), but here are a few extreme and, hopefully, rare ones:

  • The client finds your 52-inch walk-behind at the bottom of their built-in pool.
  • The rock you shot through their window landed right in the middle of the owner's apple pie.
  • The side-discharge catcher on the mower sticks out just far enough to scratch the Ferrari parked in the driveway.
  • One of your employees decides that the trees in the customer's back yard would make a great urinal.
  • The above could happen to anyone, right? OK, you know I'm just having some fun. Here are some more common customer complaints:
  • The bill is too high.
  • The grass is uneven and your crew didn't blow off the back patio ... again!
  • Your guys skinned the grass with the line trimmer.
  • The "mower guy" is going too fast on his riding mower!
  • Your company hacked my shrubs up and now I need to see a psychologist.

So what do we do about upset customers? I can tell you that ignoring them pretty much only makes the problem worse. Being defensive, ditto. Arguing with them is a direct ticket to the firing squad, which means that you won't be working at their property any time in the near future.

So what do we do when it comes to upset customers?

The first thing we do is listen; then listen some more. We let them talk and we keep quiet until they are finished. This could go on for some time, so don't be tempted to daydream, start checking emails or get in a quick game of solitaire on the computer.

While we're listening we take notes. They will most likely re- peat what it is they are upset about like 100 times or so. When we listen and take notes we get their point. This is critical because we will need it for the next step.

wThen, using the notes we have taken, we make sure that they know we understand what it is they are upset about. But that will mean little to them until we come to some sort of understanding with them.

That's the next step: coming up with a solution. And there's no ducking this one; it's upon us. They called us because we are either the owner or a high-ranking manager within the company. It is our job to resolve these types of issues.

The good news is there are almost always solutions.



Photo courtesy of Getty Images/iStockphoto.

You may not like the options, but this isn't about us right now, it's about the customer feeling like they got results. In business we all should have insurance, and while insurance will not erase the fact they the Ferrari got scratched (or other more common complaints relating to property damage) it will pay for the repairs. The way we react to the customer and how we present the fact that the insurance will take care of it is up to us.

When it comes to things like skinning turf, hacking shrubs or going too fast on the mowers, we will have to remedy that by getting out there and having a look then coming up with a plan so it doesn't happen again. We then have to present that plan to the customer and follow up with them to make sure the crew is doing what you promised. The crew needs to be instructed and trained if need be to make sure things like that don't happen any more.

Having upset customers happens in business; how you deal with it makes all the difference in the world. After the initial call and the solution is presented we then follow up with them in a week to see how things are going. Usually by then they have calmed down and are happy to hear from us. That is if the problem has been solved to their satisfaction.

The author is the owner of Southwest Landscape Management, Columbia Station, Ohio, and a partner with his brother, Jeff, in Rak Consulting. Contact him at steve@sw-landscape.com.