Do you know, really know, how your clients view your company? Is your company doing everything you promised that it would do? If not, what do you have to do to keep these clients? How do you retain the loyalty of key clients?
These, among other reasons, are why Bob Grover, founder of Pacific Landscape Management (PLM) in Portland, Oregon, regularly surveys his company’s clients. Have you also thought about periodically surveying your clients, not to tell you what you already know, but to reveal what you don’t know? In today’s digital world, it’s surprisingly easy via email to put a lens on clients’ likes and dislikes.
“We talk about all the great things that we do for our clients, but if we don’t get feedback from them, we may think we’re better than we are. We may miss something we can improve upon,” says Grover.
Indeed, finding out what you don’t know (or what you erroneously thought you knew) is extremely valuable for the owner of any landscape or lawn service business. That goes for the smallest operation as well as a company the size of PLM with 250 employees and servicing about 500 commercial properties.
Depending on what you want to find out, your survey can be lengthy or it can be short. Grover thinks a short survey directed at key clients is the way to go.
“When we do a survey, we generally have 10 questions or less. We want it to look and be easy to complete,” says Grover. “You basically have to tell people how easy it is to fill out.”
PLM has used essentially the same questionnaire for the past decade. Asking the same small set of key questions over time alerts his management team to any real or perceived service shortcomings and illuminates emerging trends in client expectations.
A good way to start your survey is to ask clients to rate your company on a scale of 1 to 10 on the likelihood of them referring colleagues and friends to your company, suggests Grover. Clients responding with 9s or 10s are pleased with your service and will likely promote your services to others. If you get responses with 6s or below, look out. You could lose these clients.
Again, using the 1 to 10 scale, also ask clients how they rate how you are meeting their expectations when it comes to landscape quality. And are you meeting their service expectations? Also, ask what you can do better, to name a few of the most obvious questions.
Grover says before he began offering $5 Starbucks gift cards, he was getting about a 25 percent response rate. Offering the incentive jumped the response rate to more than 50 percent.
OK, you’ve done the footwork. You’ve identified your key clients, gathered their contact information, built your survey and incentivized clients to respond. Now it’s time to reap the fruits of your efforts by paying attention to what your clients tell you.
Grover takes the information he gets from the surveys seriously. He also makes it a point to respond to every client who returns a questionnaire to PLM.
Grover spoke about the importance of surveys at LANDSCAPES2016 this past October. The PLM founder shared that he had just completed writing notes to 150 clients that had answered a recent survey.
“It’s definitely worth the effort and cost to do surveys,” he says.