Saturday, February 11, 2012
If you saw "Snake in the Grass" Feb. 10th, 2012 on CBC's Marketplace, then you'll know what I mean. The program addressed customer outrage at the way Weedman conducts their business including consumer protection violations.
Hey, do your homework. Just Google any lawn company and "complaints" and you'll see, in most cases, there's nothing different from the Marketplace broadcast.
I spent five years in the Lawn Care Industry with one of the larger companies before I started my own. I already knew this and have reported it here in many a blog over the last 4 years.
I watched as they failed upwards with their customer service, their crass handling of complaints, their inexcusable practice of sending inexperienced students to do applications and the blatant lies in order to ring a few more shekels from unsuspecting patrons. The company I worked for was pompous and pretentious in how they treated their customers and I, as the messenger, often handled the brunt of the fallout.
When I started my company 5 years ago with an impending pesticide bylaw looming, people thought me mad. Why would I go into an industry that had such limitations placed on it to be successful? Yet, I believed by changing the lawn care model and running an operation that was 180 degrees from that of my competitors I could achieve growth- a growth that has continued year after year since I started. All this despite having limited tools to do my job effectively.
The bigger companies should have realized the storm was coming and put on goulashes as well, but they continued to pound away with the tired methods that made them rich when the products worked with absolution.
Sure it's easy to blame the anger and resentment Weedman is feeling on the pesticide bylaw, it has hurt us all, but it's not the real reason for the loss of revenue. We use the same materials as the big guys and we have close to 98% customer retention year in-year out.
So what's the difference?
Today the customer has to become a partner and realize their role in maintaining the health of their lawn, it's the only way and it requires education. Gone are the days of showing up twice a year and spraying weeds and gone is the methodology that these companies still cling to like a baby-blankie.
The customer is not a number and they are not a blank cheque - a realization in the first step to building the better beast.
Personally I hope companies like Weedman continue to operate as they always have...after all, they're my best advertisement.