Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Respect and Loyalty

Last week, I shared with you an awesome customer service experience I had with 360 Computer Maid. As I wrote that post, I realized I had another post that would illustrate the good and the not-so-great about customer service.

I’ve been in my house for just about five years. It is my first house. As a renter, one thing I never had to worry about was landscaping. When I purchased my home taking care of a lawn was a completely new experience. Luckily, I had an acquaintance who had just started a lawn care company. I went with them. For the first two years, I had no complaints. Then a drought decimated everyone’s yard in in my neighborhood.

After the drought, my lawn had large gaping bald spots. They aerated and seeded but no luck. I took a lot of the blame because I wasn’t good at watering … especially when I was told the best time to water is in the morning. I already get up at 5:00 to work out. I’m at work by 7:30. My mornings are packed.

I did some research and found out that Bermuda grass would be better than the fescue that we’d been trying to grow. When I said I wanted to switch to that grass, I was told we’d have to seed in the spring and not the summer.

So this spring we seeded and I watered. I watered daily. My water bill doubled! Still no luck. I googled and found out that Bermuda shouldn’t be seeded until the ground temperature was 65 degrees. We were still going down into the 40’s at night. But I gave them the benefit of the doubt. They are the experts; I’m just someone that has a Google app on my smart phone.

I did email and ask about the seeding. The reply I received was shocking. In fact, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions so I forwarded the response to a few friends. They came to the same conclusion. Basically, I was told that I hadn’t actually watered my grass at all and that my claim of watering was not truthful. I was lying.

At this same time, my neighbors grass was beautiful, and they had been exactly where I was, with an ugly lawn, a few months before. I got the number to their lawn care company. Our discussion was eye-opening.

First of all, he looked at my grass and was stunned that it had not been aerated and the seed was just thrown on top of the soil. Of course, it wasn’t growing and the amount of watering I was doing wasn’t going to make it better.

The representative agreed that the best time to water is in the morning. However, he told me I could get an inexpensive timer for my hose. My original lawn care people never mentioned this to me. Basically, they felt I should just get up and water the lawn.

Finally, we talked price. The new company’s rate was half of what I had been paying. Needless to say, armed with all of this information,  I switched lawn care companies.

So what did I learn?

As a customer, …

  • Loyalty is important to me. However, being loyal to a company that isn’t meeting my needs is just ridiculous.
  • More important than loyalty is respect. Accusing me of lying was the height of disrespect. That, even more than the sorry state of my grass, was what made me pick up the phone and call another company.
  • Price is king. However, price alone didn’t fuel my decision. It was going to a company that made me feel like they had the knowledge and ability to meet my needs. Telling me about the seed and echoing what I had read for myself on Google made sense to me. And the nugget about a timer for the hose was invaluable. Compared to the information I’d been getting before, it was critical in the decision I made.

For the Company/CSR…

  • Make it easy for the customer to be loyal by offering a strong product and wonderful service. Had they grown my grass and treated me better, I would have continued to pay a premium for their service. Price alone would not have driven me to a competitor.
  • The customer and client should be on the same team. The customer wants a good product or service and the company wants them to have a good experience. Informing me of what I could do to make my lawn better would have helped both of us. Why did it take 4½ years for me to even hear about the timer solution (remember this is my first house and my first lawn).
  • There are customers out there who would lie, but a customer with no history of lying, misrepresentation or other negative behaviors should not be assumed to be a liar, or anything else. 
  • Your price should be competitive but if your price is going to be higher than average be able to justify that cost
  • Don’t assume that your customer isn’t going anywhere. The way my lawn was seeded was simply not acceptable, nor was the strong implication of lying.