I welcome your own ideas but to get things started:
Do you think we market ourselves correctly ?
Is our customer care as good as other professions ?
Have you ever thought of "borrowing" an idea you've witnessed elsewhere in business?
I book my car in for a service.
They confirm the booking by text the day before.
They offer a lift to work or courtesy car.
They call a few days later to ask for feedback on the service we received.
Obviously all this is not all necessarily applicable but can we learn from this ?
Please think of a service you have received recently and thought, "we should do that!".
I guess some times the old ones are the best:-
In all sales it is as important to sell yourself as the product, if they dont like you they're pretty sure not to buy what you are selling.
"The customer is always right", or should be given the impression that you think they are, and that when you correct them they should think it was their idea in the first place.
We are just another service industry, customer satisfaction is important.
Every neighbour is a potencial customer, no matter how intruding, nosey, complaining or generally a pain in the a**e they are, be polite and be tidy, counts for lots.
lastly, from my time in building, it is often more important to look right than be right when it comes to levels and angles, helps what you are making sit more naturally in its surroundings.
From a business management pov, I feel many could benefit from digitising their activities - and running regular MI (management Information) reports on their stats.
You would be very surprised by what you can find out - such as easy to spot high mileage days, high fuel usage weeks, bad routes etc, all on a one-click report weekly.
This extends to graphical 1 - click reports on accounts overdue, payment patterns etc, the list goes on.
Oh and advertising effectiveness by % and investment is also very useful.
It can be extra useful for tracking staff costs and efficiency per job (from experience in the pub trade), which when run against myself as a gardener has provided some interesting results week on week (Im a very bad friday worker =) ) .
In short - Automate all your back office functions, and act on the data, you can reduce office hours from (in my case) 6 or so a week to 2.
McDonalds ? I hear you say. McDonalds do two things very well.
1. The upsell. You know the bit where they say do you want to make it a large one for and extra 70p. We can all upsell by offering items such as bedding plants and lawn care treatments etc..
2. The operating system. McDonalds have a procedures system that is the daddy of them all. This allows them to maintain a consistant product quality. Their operator's manual makes it possible for the newest employee achieve this standard. How many of us have a doccumented procedure manual that enables us to maintain a consistant standard - from the way we present our self when we go to knock on the customers door to sweeping up and the end of the job.
I read a very good book on this called the e myth - http://www.amazon.co.uk/-myth-Revisited-Small-Businesses-About/dp/0...
We automated our backend systems using Qxpress Scheduling system into QB Pro due to my sales background and experience.
- Clear shedules - years into the future for one off small projects, recurring jobs or major landscaping projects.
- excellent cost recovery of items purchased 'in the field' - ie you don't forgot to charge that 'extra' 1Tonne of soil to the client that was authorised at the last mniute while on site.
- shows me our pipeline of work and committments (ie what hours do we have booked, costs, overheads)
- one click invoicing from our daily work sheets.
- we can dispatch tasks from the system to our phones - giving details, locations, time and materials estimates, who authorised and how much (ie Managing Agents etc)
The above saves me massives amount of time, alone
We also have an Operations Manual, which defines all our standard tasks. So when the daily sheet say do "X", everyone knows what "X" means.
We also use an 'in the cloud' Task Mangement system, that we can all update from the field. This is linked into Outlook as well. So as tasks get done or new tasks need to be added or priorities changed due to new circumstances, the changes are instant and we can all see them on the iPhones.
I believe there is a level of technolgy that fundementally helps us do our job better. That 'level' is unique each persons business and their comfort factor with such technologies.
I started a thread a while ago about using Texts to customers to remind them of the appointment etc as I got sent a demo of a system that one lawn franchise has started to use......I see that as a very powerful tool, keeping your name in the customer's mind AND giving the chance of an upsell. Appreciate not for everyone, but I've a sales background and never overlook this area.
Chris, don't underestimate the rise of the "Silver Surfers" - they have the time and money .
My mum communicates more by txt than phone calls now to her friends here and abroad and she knows all the abbreviations. It takes me 5 minutes to decipher one of bl88dy messages!
I'm using what we call a running sheet for our maintenance customers.
It lists all of the operating areas ( lawn cuts, lawn treatments, to veg plots etc etc).
Each operating area has a basic service and then 3-4 upgrades.
Every current customer is written to and an appointment made and over a coffee and a garden walk around we will run through the sheet possibly identifying service upgrades. Upselling!
Each new customer will get the same garden tour and chat and services logged in at the appropriate service level.
A customer phoned us last Friday with a unusual request.
He had to build and plant up 14 troughs, 10 at 1.5 metres long, 2 at 1 metre long and 2 at 0.5 metres. He had nowhere to do it, and needed them delivered tomorrow to a new prestigious Show Home project of his.
No problem. Build them in our yard, pick the plants from our stock that you need, and they will be delivered by ourselves on Friday. What's more, we will even help you build the Planters, and fill them for you with our compost.
Another Wholesale Nursery offering service like this, where?
Ours is a free service, one happy customer, a good day.
thats the way to get business .
This text the day before sounds a superb idea
They will then leave the gate unlocked.
Clear dog muck prior to visit.
Have your cheque ready.
Leave you a extras list if they are not going to be in.
The list goes on.
However how does one set it up?
This discussion started on what can we do in relationship to a car service depot.
Charge like them! if only,My wifes 1 yr old Ford Fiesta 7.500 miles first service £150.00 + parts+Vat its an oil change & check fluids done by the apprentice time to carry this service out 40 minutes.
If I sign up to something ( finance, gym, health spa - please note the last two examples are 1.unecesssary 2. a pipe dream) I usually get a welcome pack with all of the appropriate information provided.
I'm just about to role this out for every new customer with each receiving their own folder with about us info,T&C's and other as yet to be firmed up information contained within.
Another promotional idea I am curently looking into is to give each existing customer and new customers two free quality mugs with our logo/phone number on. I saw these as the most cost effective and frequently used promotional items and most likely to be used if our customers have guests.
Excellent posts here...
Dishwasher repair man came yesterday (£200 bill for half hour!) and he had one of those card payment machines like you get in restaurants. (I thought they just sent a signal like a wireless internet connection in your house, didn't realise they would work anywhere!)
Perhaps that is what we will all use when cheques are no longer used in a couple of years time or whenever the date is!
Have actually been trying to get my customers to pay by BACS because of this and also to delay cheques being caught up when there are strikes.