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What to say when you don't know?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Green Acres, Feb 16, 2001.

  1. Green Acres

    Green Acres LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 316

    I have been doing lawn care for about 3 years now. Although I have learned ALOT from this site, magazines, and just listing to people there are still something I don’t know. I always try to look and act professional but when someone ask me something I don’t know the answer to I feel un-professional. So my question is what do you say to a customer when you don’t know the answer? Also what if they ask for a service you don’t offer yet what do you say then? Any tips or suggestions would be great. Thanks.
  2. Eric ELM

    Eric ELM Husband, Father, Friend, Angel
    Messages: 4,830

    If someone asked me a question I didn't know the answer to, I would say this. "I'm not certain about that, but I know someone that does know, let me find out for sure first and I will get back to you on this."

    If someone asked for a service I don't offer, I would say "I don't offer this service yet, but if more of my customers are interested in this, I will consider starting this service."

    If you are not interested in this service, refer them to someone that does this service.
  3. Chopper Lover

    Chopper Lover LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 288

    If there is something you don't know tell your customer the truth and that you will find out for them and get back to them. Give them a time frame in which you will have them an answer. Then, most importantly, make sure you follow up. By doing so will reinforce to the customer two things. First, you are honest, second, your are dependable.

    The same thing applies to services you don't provide. Tell them you don't provide service "xyx" and explain why if appropriate. Then ask if they would like you to find someone that can provide that particular service and if they want you to get estimate (for which you can take a cut if you choose) or if you can supply them with someone to contact directly.

    These things build trust with your clients. Trust goes a long way.

  4. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,497

    "I can't tell yo right off hand at this time, but let me look into it, and I'll get right back with you. I can also, perhaps give us some other options at this time, as well."
  5. Five Star Lawn Care LLC

    Five Star Lawn Care LLC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,006

    Just say "it wasnt Me"....but no i agree with eric on this one
  6. KindGardener

    KindGardener LawnSite Member
    Messages: 186

    I like what Y'all are saying aboug "getting back to them"... THEN GET BACK TO THEM! The only complaints about bad follow-up I hear more often than ones about maint operators are about landscape contractors.
  7. awm

    awm LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,354

    You know im not totally sure on that one.
    Give me a couple day asI know a lot of others
    in this buisiness.ONE OF THEM IS SURE TO HAVE
    Dont make a biggy of it cause no one ever
    knows it all.The fun be over then.
  8. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,411

    Whatever you do, dont try to BS the customer cuz they *will* find out and that will look even more unprofessional by far.
  9. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Messages: 10,178

    boy, does this ring a bell. i have always been able to b.s. myself out of trouble when a customer asks me something i dont know, and have not had a problem because of it. at this point i feel i can answer almost any question they have, but at first i couldnt. i hate to disagree with u guys, but to me if i call a "profesional" to give me an estimate, and he says he dont know, im thinking hes not a profesional after all. example: i go to joes garage, and say, u guys fix cars here? they say sure we do. i say, well, my front end by the tire is giving me trouble, i think it may be a ball joint, what do u think, joe says well, we dont know too much about that, but, i will call a friend and ask if he will help me repair your car. i dont think id want joe fixin my car. it just seems very unproffesional to me. if u expect to be paid the same as the "profesionals" then be one, know your business inside and out. i know im gonna get it for this one. BOB
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I must agree a little with Bob. I don't think it's a good idea to display your ignorance to a potential customer. So sometimes you have to, should I say, think fast.

    But I will also agree with the others that honesty is best. If you are totally B.S. ing people, they can often tell. If you are not confident in your answer, even if you are right, people often think you are just making stuff up. So when you get asked a tough question it's important to answer in a professional way and answer with confidence. But alas, you can't lie. So you have to kind of think fast.

    First off, I think it's important to know your work. I can honestly say I can identify almost any turf problem in our area almost immediately. That comes from taking classes, asking the local pro shops, and from experience. If you notice you have a weakness in a certain area, you had better make time to start learning it.

    Secondly, I think it's important to know your limits. And I think it's totally professional to let clients know that you have limits to your knowledge. For instance, a lady asked me the other day what a certain tree was. I didn't know. Plus it didn't have any leaves on it, so that made it more difficult. So my answer was simply this, "Hm. You know, it has the structure of a maple but I can tell it's not a maple. And without the leaves it's harder to tell. But to be honest, I am not as good at identifying large deciduous trees as I am at the smaller trees and shrubs." I was also naming almost every other plant in her landscape by name as we walked through (e.g. "Would you like us to prune the Pieris over there? How about the Hinoki Cypress?") So it was obvious I was not ignorant, I just didn't know that particular tree. And it didn't really matter. She was just curious.

    On that same topic, I think it's totally acceptable to admit you don't know about a certain topic. For instance if you get asked what kind of double check valve they have in their irrigation system I think it's okay to say something like, "You know, irrigation systems are not my expertise. Ask me any turf question, pruning question, etc. and I can probably answer it. But I haven't spent much time yet with irrigation systems. I do know a guy though...."

    Finally, I think you can B.S. with people and still be honest. For me, this usually occurs with plant identification. Because I pretty much know the answers to everything else. But there are so many dang plants out there I still get stumped sometimes. So when someone says, "What kind of bush is that?" and I don't know. I will at least try to guess at the family a little, from what I know. For instance, "Well, I don't remember the name of that specific one. But I am sure it's in the Cypress family. I can tell by the lacy leaf structure. If it's important I can take a sample to the nursery when I am down there tomorrow and they'll know." At least that answer doesn't make me sound ignorant.

    Same thing with turf problems. Someone has a dead spot in their turf and you can't tell why? Well, first, you need to get some more training as I said above. But for now, this answer is a non-B.S. answer that works, "You know, it's difficult to tell why that area died. Insects can sometimes cause an area to die like that. So can disease. Or it could be simply dog urine. Do you have a female dog? (guys, you'd be surprised how often I nail that one). Well, either way, the best thing to do is for me to take a small core sample down to the extension agent and ask them. They are the real experts at identifying tough problems like this." That answer is 100% honest and still makes you sound like you know what you're talking about. It's about the next best thing to actually knowing the correct answer.

    Still, I am with Bob. You can't just say, "Hmm. I dunno. Let me ask someone else." That just sounds too unprofessional.

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