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Etiquette / Public Relations as an LCO

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Pecker, Nov 14, 2003.

  1. Pecker

    Pecker LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,454

    Hey guys, just trying to polish up a little on my people skills and would like to hear your opinions on the do's and don't's in dealing with customers. Not just as LCOs, but as business people. I know a lot of you were businessmen, or professionals in fields prior to joining the green industry: do you utilize the people skills you acquired or do you find this type of work to require a different demeanor altogether?

    I guess what I'd like to know are your opinions on things like:
    - What is ok to say?
    - What would be the "kiss of death", the ultimate "NoNo"(referring to business conversations)?
    - How far can you go without breaking a "rule" when trying to find out things: for example - how much a customer paid their previous LCO (or would it be considered "rude" or "prying" to ask this type of thing, and if so, how would you phrase it so as to not sound like you are prying, etc.)
    - What are the "rules"???

    We all know basically what is socially acceptable (don't walk up and belch in a customer's face, or scratch yourself in public, etc.). That's not what I'm talking about. My intent is to target the things that your mother didn't teach you; things you learn from working with customers, the business world (LCO business especially), etc. that we may not be aware of, may have lost touch with over the years, or which have become a new model of professional conduct.
  2. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    I know my limitations so I hired a p.r. guy just to talk to the client or as I like to call them $%^& &^#$ ^%$#@*. I guess that would be one of those kiss of death sayings now that I think about it.

  3. mower_babe

    mower_babe LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 790

    lmao - yes, older, I think you are right.

    Kiss of death?

    1-Pretty much, as a rule, anytime you are talking to a customer, you should be able to avoid saying any bad language. Just not a good idea.

    2-Being unsure of yourself and showing it. If you don't have confidence in yourself, how do you expect them to??
  4. Rustic Goat

    Rustic Goat LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,194

    First contact, be as friendly as possible and very professional. Don't go to a first meeting covered with dirt and sweat, smelling like last weeks laundry.

    In general, because of the nature of the biz, if weather allows, hold your customer 'meeting' outside, customers will usually not feel as intimidated.

    Proper English, proper etiquette. Yes Sir/Mame, etc.

    When knocking at the door, or when speaking with customer, keep your distance. Again, don't intimidate them.

    Be/act as friendly as possible (in a professional way) without going overboard. If they think of you as their friend, that's at least half of all battles won right there.

    Ask leading questions and then shut up and let them do the talking. The more they talk and the more you listen, the more you're going to learn about what makes them tick and what they are wanting in the way of service. After you've done this enough, you'll find you'll be categorizing the personality of the person and asking yourself if they are going to be a good customer, or red flags and warning sirens in your head will tell you to find some excuse to leave and never come back.

    Pay attention to them when they are speaking, as much as possible look at them while they talk. If they are showing you something, look at it, act interested. Nothing wrong with having a small note pad with you and take notes of their concerns/desires.

    NEVER offer an opinion about what you think about ( fill in anything ) until you've heard the customer say what they feel about it. Nothing worse than blurting out how bad you think something looks or how something SHOULD have been done only to find out that it's their pride and joy.

    Don't BS about your abilities, knowledge, people you know, experience. A spoonful of BS can ruin a whole batch of brownies, and can usually be smelled a mile off.

    Avoid talking price until the meeting is complete, or even returning with figures at a later time if it's multiple projects. If you price something early, and they think it's high, they probably won't mention the other 5 projects they have in mind. Get their whole shopping list of 'to do's' before going into price.

    NEVER NEVER cuss/swear, even if every other word out of their mouth is foul.

    NEVER smoke when with a customer, best to avoid this completely when on their property even.

    Do not let them think you are in a hurry, even if you are. Set aside enough time to deal with your customer so they don't think they are imposing on you, or you have better things to do.

    What you are after is long term customers. Short term jobs, one time jobs, unless they are really high profit are usually a waste of your time, energy, and money.
    Long term customers are the ones you'll be working for for years without having to 'sell' every little thing you can do for them. Long term customers that think you're their friend will call you when they have something they need done just to find out if you can take care of their'problem' for them before they ever think about calling anyone else.

    ALWAYS do what you tell them you're going to do, and if possible do a little more, something that doesn't cost you anymore than a little time, but something that will make you THE person they want doing their work.

    I'm certain there's more . . . . . . . . . . . .
  5. I agree with Rustic, Babe & Dirt. But I still think they're referring to manners more than demeanor.

    There is a category separate from the superficial "storefront" way of doing business. That is the craftsman. (Noooo... Not Bob Villa for Sears)

    I've heard the craftsman is a dying breed in America. Yet I'm trying to be one. Someone my clients can trust to care for their property. I think most LCO's fall into this catagory.

    If you earn their trust you can ask them anything.

    Some of the no-no's I can think of are;

    Expecting them to trust you with no reason for them too.
    Trading on their good name. (Like using them as a reference without their approval.)
    Talking about them behind their back. Including repeating anything you've seen or heard there.
    You know..Show them the same consideration you would give to your best friend.

    The "quick buck" LCO's will eventually be weeded out by trustworthy LCO's that people feel comfortable having on their property. JMHO

    So go ahead and ask them whatever you feel comfortable asking. Just remember, "If you reach too far you will fall on your face."

  6. Mikes Lawn Landscape

    Mikes Lawn Landscape LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Posts: 458

    I think Rustic nailed it !

    Don't offer personal info
    Do more listening than talking
    Present yourself as their equal
    Do what you say and when you say it
    Communication is Important keep your customer updated.
    Learn to spot the trouble customers early.
    Some customers just want their lawn done and others want to talk about their hip surgery learn to deal with both.
    Yes sir and Yes Mamm go a long way around here.
    Return phone calls promptly
    Its their lawn respect that
    Don't tell them their lawn looks like crap say we'll get it looking good for you
    If you are going to be late for a meeting call them
    Never go Inside their home there ain't no grass in there
    Compliment their home or landscaping if it looks good
    Always keep it professional
    When your on property and see them always offer a hello or good morning
    With the elderly always ask "You keeping cool" or "Warm"
    Only give advise if asked
    If you don't know an answer tell them you'll find out for them
    If its a one time job or a new customer call and ask were you satisfied
    Most problems occur because of misunderstandings make sure you are clear on the scope of work and the customer is clear
  7. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Posts: 2,585

    the folks above gave you some excellent points...

    Without going into too much detail, I;ll note a few critical ones in my opinion...some already mentioned above.

    1. when you agree to meet them for the first time, make sure you are EXACTLY on time....drive by the house prior to your meeting and park down the street ...then show up right on time....not 5 minutes late or 5 minutes early. It may seem like a small thing..but...our industry, and some other ones, have a bad reputation for being reliable. By showing up on time, without saying a word, you have already scored a point before you even open your mouth.

    2, SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO THEM!!!!! and listen carefully as Rustic said. DO NOT give opinions until you have heard their issues. Even then you may want to think about it and get back to them. Talking too much the first time you meet them can turn people off...and ....confuse them

    3. Never be critical of ANYTHING on their property....no matter how bad the last landscaper/lawn guy screwed something up. It gains you nothing and could lose you the job.

    4. Don't look like you work in the dirt. Try to shedule customer meetings first thing in the day or on day you are not working in the dirt. Showing up clean, preferably with a logo on your shirt or hat, already scores you points compared to about 70% of the other guys out there

    THose are just a few of many...good thread you started by the way
  8. bushwoods1

    bushwoods1 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 101

    I agree with Rustic, and think he nailed it pretty well.

    The biggest complaint I get from new potential clients around here is just showing up. Whether for the initial interview, or once they have OK'd work to be done, the lco never shows. If you say you will meet them at 10:00 then you better show at 10:00

    First impressions are everything, and if your late to your first meeting with them, you are already making excusses and trying to get yourself out of the hole.

    When your running late, you know it. CALL THE CLIENT and let them know. When you say I'll start the job on Weds. morning, then SHOW UP Weds. morning. The simple act of making a phone call goes a long way! Give them the respect by keeping in contact with them, and keeping them informed of whats going on.
  9. DanaMac

    DanaMac LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,156

    Very good subject.

    Do not talk trash about your competition to the potential customer. They want to know why to hire you, not why someone else may be a poor choice.

    If it is a job you can't handle, give them a list of companies you would recommend.

    Don't give them personal excuses even if they are true one - don't blame it on the kids, or the damn traffic, or anything else for that matter. Just apologize for whatever the problem is and don't give an excuse.

    If it is a large landscaping job where you might not be onsite often, introduce them to the foreman/forewoman so they feel comfortable with the crew there.

    How about the old "underpromise and over deliver"? Tell them you will get them a proposal on Friday, but deliver it Wednesday or Thursday.
  10. Clay

    Clay LawnSite Member
    Posts: 236

    "Skill With People" by Les T. Giblin

    "Personality Plus: How To Understand Others By Understanding Yourself" by Florence Littauer

    "The Greatest Salesman In The World" by Og Mandino


    The link is to "Give Me The Bat" an audio cassette by Andy Andrews... Let me know what you think of it if you get it... very, very powerful.... Probably the best public speaker I have ever seen....

    If those aren't enough to keep you busy, you can always get a copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie...

    Good Luck, Clay

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