Professor Daniel Carmichael created The Leaky Barrel of Marketing Theory. In it, he uses the analogy of a funnel that empties water into a rain barrel that is riddled with holes. Almost as fast as the raindrops begin to fill the barrel, the water spurts out the sides, never filling it above the level of the holes.

For the purpose of this article, these “holes in the barrel” are represented by a sundry of mistakes that green industry businesses make, and the water spurting out those holes are your hard-earned clients. Here are some examples:

• Poorly designed or out-of-date websites

• Slow follow-up to prospect inquiries

• Service vehicles that are in disrepair or are dirty

• Surly or rude employees

• Marginal service

• Damage to the client’s property

• Questionable quality lInability to resolve customer concerns or complaints

These are just a fraction of the reasons why potential loyal clients ‘vote with their feet and cross the street’ to one of your competitors.

According to a recent survey by Accenture, 81% of consumers who switched loyalties say the company could have done something differently to keep them as customers. And a survey by American Express reported that 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction, or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

One of the challenges for most green industry business owners, managers and employees today is that they don’t really know what their customers are experiencing. As a result, all the money and effort the company spends to attract them is for naught, as they lose their precious customers without ever knowing why. Let’s take a look at a strategy that can help you resolve this conundrum once and for all.

In order to identify and improve the customer experience in the marketplace, customer-service specialists Ron Zemke and Karl Albrecht created a tool they call the ‘cycle of service’.

The cycle of service is comprised of a series of ‘touchpoints’. A touchpoint is any time your potential customer comes into contact with your company, in such a manner that it forms an impression about your business or organization.

Here is how you can create and use this powerful tool. Sit down with your entire team and plot out on a white board all the steps that a potential customer would take, in order to do business with your company.

For example, the first step might be a person seeing one of your service vehicles in their neighborhood.

He would notice the company logo, name and website on the vehicle. At the next step, he would visit your website. After viewing your website, he would call your office number and talk to a representative. Next he would schedule an appointment with a salesperson. Then, he would meet with your salesperson. After that, he would receive a proposal, and then make a decision about whether or not to use your services or buy any of your products. Next, your company would deliver that service or product. Finally, that customer would decide whether or not he was satisfied and would use you again and refer you.

Once you have identified the actual cycle of service your prospect goes through, you and your team must analyze each touchpoint. For example, let’s analyze just one of those touchpoints. Let’s use the appointment where your salesperson meets with the prospect to learn more about his or her needs and wants, and discusses how your company can meet their expectations.

Here is how this touchpoint unfolds into these components. Your salesperson calls ahead to confirm the appointment an hour before the meeting is to take place. Next, he or she pulls up in your company vehicle, parks in the street, not the driveway, walks up to the front door and rings the door bell. The prospect sees the vehicle, and as they open the door they see the salesperson. They observe how he or she is dressed.

The prospect invites the salesperson inside, a conversation ensues, and then both your prospect and your salesperson walk outside to look at what work needs to be done to the prospect’s home. Once the salesperson gathers enough information, he or she then makes a presentation. At the end of the presentation a quote is given and the prospect either accepts, delays or rejects the quote.

Going back and examining each component of this touchpoint, you and your team can now identify the actions your salesperson needs to take to meet the minimal standards. After this, identify how each component can be enhanced.

For example, here are just a few ways to enhance the particular component of the touchpoint where the salesperson is at the front door. The salesperson should park the company vehicle in the street, be dressed in a clean uniform that bears his name and the logo of your company, all of which can be easily seen and read. The salesperson has good eye contact, a cheerful smile, a friendly hello and calls the prospect by name.

As the salesperson enters the home, he or she takes off their shoes, which shows respect for the prospect’s home. If a pet comes to greet him or her, they show that they like animals. As a way to start the conversation, your company representative might pay a sincere compliment to the homeowner about the exterior appearance of their home, the landscaping or the interior.

Once you have a strategy developed that will enhance the particular touchpoint, teach it to each one of your team members who will be involved in that touchpoint with the client. As you are able to get everyone on board, in delivering the enhanced version of your touchpoint strategies, you will be on your way to creating a quality client experience.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg is an employee performance and customer-experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. To ask him a question or to hire Tom, contact him at: 734- 404-5909 or or www.tom