A recent survey of lawn and landscape professionals, from Bayer Crop Science business unit Environmental Science Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, was the topic of a panel discussion that took place during the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association breakfast at GIE+Expo Oct. 19.
According to the survey findings, maintaining strong customer satisfaction doesn’t appear to be a key challenge for lawn and landscape companies, with nearly six in 10 survey respondents saying they have die-hard customers.
Brian Haga, owner and president of Baltimore-based Scientific Plant Service, participated on the panel, and shared that his business has been in business for 50 years and four clients have been with the company since the very beginning. He attributed the company’s “fan base” to the ability to give them solutions to their problems and explain those solutions in a way they can understand.
From the perspective of another panelist, Bayer’s Rob Golembiewski, PhD, a Green Solutions team specialist, said the two key things in any successful customer relationship are making the customer happy and making money.
The survey also revealed that nearly every lawn care company is struggling with a lack of qualified workers. The challenge with the most impact, according to the survey more than four in 10 respondents, is “a shallow bench” or not enough team members.
Haga said the labor challenges are very real and Scientific Plant Service has a positive work culture as evidenced by an employee whose two grandsons have also come to work for the company.
According to the survey, the ability to build and operate a team likely comes second-nature to lawn and landscape professionals, as 84 percent of respondents reported that they played a team sport in high school or college.
Panelist Jon Cundiff, CEO of Weed Man Kansas City (Missouri) also likened his team to a baseball team. “We all have our roles, we can’t all be pitchers.”
Golembiewski said the role of Bayer is that of a coach “not only when things are going well but also when problems arise.”
Cundiff said workforce development is a huge issue in the lawn care industry. You can’t just tell people to go out an do a job like you used to, he said. Now they need to know what’s the why and they want to be part of a culture. “Everyone wants to play for a winning team. Sometimes it’s not so much as a destination as it is a journey. They like the journey. They want the opportunity. They want the adventure. They feel like they are part of that. We aren’t just looking for frontline employees we are looking for future leaders.”
They all agreed there is nothing worse than call-backs from a customer. Any time that happens it takes time away from other customers.
Panelists also talked about an offensive strategy since 37 percent of respondents said they are playing too much defense.
Cundiff mentioned how communication is instantaneous and customers want answers right away. He said it is important to be up front with customers.
Golembiewski said Bayer provides solutions sheets and technical bulletins to its contractors.
Patricia Morrow, senior manager, marketing communications for Bayer, moderated the panel. For the full stats from the survey is available at www.EnvironmentalScience.Bayer.US/winning-season.