There was a study about customer satisfaction that was conducted by a research group. The results were so startling that it quickly became obvious that the outcome could apply to all types and sizes of businesses and organizations, including the green industry. The study centered on what customers really want to know about the people from whom they are buying.

Among other things, the research revealed that the customers want to know the answers to four questions about the person serving them:

1. Do you like me?

2. Do you care about me?

3. Can I trust you?

4. Do you know what you’re talking about?

Let’s take a look and see how this would apply to your green industry company.

The first thing your customers want to know is if the employee or manager that they encounter is sincere. Does your representative use their name, does he really listen, and have a sincere understanding in his voice?

Let’s face it. Being in business is not really about you or your team, as much as it is all about the customer you’re trying to serve. As the late Peter Drucker taught us, the purpose of any company for being in business is to find and keep customers. And since it is the customer who ultimately signs our paycheck, it would be extremely important to create an atmosphere where your customers feel they are liked and appreciated. If your customers do not get the impression that they are respected and genuinely liked by you and your employees, it will be hard to keep them.

The second question customers want to know the answer to is, did the representative sincerely care about them? It has been said that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Your customer will get a pretty good idea whether or not they are liked from the type of questions they are asked by your managers or employees. The tone of voice, body language, the little things they say or do, and how helpful they try to be in solving the customers’ problems, all indicate if and how much they do care about the person they are serving.

A good example of this is one of my clients, Tuff Turf Molebusters, located near Grand Rapids, Michigan.

This green business makes it a point to train their technicians to sincerely listen to their customers whether they are on the phone or onsite servicing the account. Even when the customer just wants to discuss the weather or some other trivia, the technician purposely spends a few extra minutes to just simply listen to the person.

When people really know that you care about them, they are much more forgiving when an error is made. It is like a scale. An analogy I like to use in my consulting or seminars is that it’s like when you weigh beans. More beans on one side of the scale will tip it in that direction. In your business, the beans are the little things you and your team do, to show the customer that you like and care about them. So when there are a lot of extra beans on the right side of the scale, you have the advantage in keeping your customers satisfied.

The third question customers want answered is, can they trust the representative? Indications of trust can be seen in how confident your team member is and if he follows through as promised. Here’s one example of how trust can be lost; it happened to our family. A wellknown lawn fertilization company that was servicing us violated our trust by misdiagnosing a problem we were having with some vegetation in a section of our yard. As a result, I made a decision that we no longer needed the services of this company.

It was easy to make that decision, because I no longer believed the technician servicing our property had our best interest at heart. I got the impression that he was trying to sell us something I did not need or want, once discovered, I regreted the purchase. They aer wary of misleading advice that can cost them unnecesary expense and embarassement.

Once your customers begin to doubt your employee's ability to tell the truth, you are in great danger of losing that person's trust forever. We call that the final five yards. It does not matter how well everyone else in your company performs. When that frontline employee, who is interacting with that costumer, fails, the entire company is judged. Many times this judgement will end to a loss of confidence, followed by the customer going to one of your competitors for service or products.

Finally, the fourth thing people who buy from you want to know is if the person servicing them is knowledgeable and competent.

Some years ago, when we had a new home built, we hired a company to install our irrigation system. The installation technicians showed up before the underground utilities had been flagged. Since we were not home to stop them, they proceeded to install the sprinkler system and cut our telephone line in two places, rendering our phone system useless. They installed the sprinkler system, but in their haste to do so, created an enormous amount of annoyance and aggravation for my wife and I. In our eyes, these technicians had crossed the line of incompetence.

When your personnel can consistently demonstrate that they are knowledgeable and competent, it will build confidence in your customers. When your team is able to solve problems and successfully exceed the expectations of the people they are serving, only good things can happen. The customer will come to expect and rely on you and your team’s professionalism and experience. When your customers believe in your company, repeat business and referrals are almost always certain.

Of course, in order for these four questions to be answered, your team needs to be trained properly. The responsibility for whether or not they are trained ultimately rests with the owner and management. Proper employee selection, and a consistent commitment to implementing the training processes, will ensure your long-term success.

So, in summary, to build lifetime customer satisfaction, make sure your company is able to provide the kind of customer-service training that will help your employees answer these four questions on a regular basis, with all of the customers they serve. When you are able to do that, you will be separating your business from the sea of mediocrity of green industry companies that you are competing with.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg is a business expert who works with small and mid-sized green industry companies to profitably gain and retain customers through the use of his consulting, speaking, videos and professional writing. To ask him a question or to consult with Tom, contact him at: 734-404-5909 or email him at: tom@tomborg.com or visit his website at: www.tomborgconsulting.com.