Several years ago I wrote a column for Lawn & Landscape magazine on what I’d do if I owned an airline. It appeared in the June 2006 issue. Here it is again; read it.
Way Over Layovers
I’m stranded in the Atlanta airport. Impatiently idling here in an airport chair with no promise of take-off anytime soon, I can’t help but think about what I’d do if I were running the show.
1. Hire only those with good attitudes. I’d go to great lengths to hire people who thrive under pressure. I would improve my chances by administering personality tests and talking to the previous employers of prospective employees. I would also consider hiring for a one-week trial period. I have only run across a few contractors who do this and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they do very well.
2. Focus on the little things. For example, if a customer misses a flight, I’d make certain my gate agents showed concern while helping him or her find another flight. Show your customers you understand and make them feel you’re on their side. Think of the items or services specific to your company that you could offer your customers when things don’t go as planned. Or just say, “I’m sorry.”
3. Keep planes spotless. Your image is crucial to success. Cleanliness and professionalism – always demonstrate these qualities to your customers. Along those lines, what does a dirty truck say about your company?
4. Tie compensation to profits and customer satisfaction. You can’t create or maintain a stellar image without great customer service, and you can’t deliver great customer service without a team that understands its importance. Team members who fail at customer service would be handed my competitor’s card and encouraged to go work there.
5. Remind top clients they’re valued. An airline executive told me 43 percent of his revenue comes from 13 percent of his clients. As a frequent flier, I have rarely felt appreciated. I would reward my top customers at different milestones. I would also place quarterly calls with the top 10 percent to make certain they remain happy with our service.
6. Lime green planes with hot pink lettering. Flashy? You bet. In a competitive industry you need to distinguish yourself any way you can, and it’s hard not to be in a good mood when you’re surrounded by vibrant colors. Think about how you’ve branded your company. Once you arrive at a look you like, ensure it appears on all your materials, from ads and invoices to letterhead to business cards.
7. Have one less row of seats and advertise that benefit. Think of a benefit you can offer to distinguish yourself from the competition. Maybe it’s offering money-back guarantees or free annual follow-ups. What are the chief problems customers complain about when it comes to landscaping? Figure out what these are and then set about devising a solution.
8. Focus on three core goals. I’d get passengers to their destinations on time, offer them the lowest price in the industry and guarantee the safety of our flights. What are the three core goals specific to your company? Identify them and make certain your entire crew can recite and deliver them. You cannot succeed if you do not know what you’re striving for.
Now while I’m still in Atlanta and eager to get to my destination, the experience has reminded me how frustrating and disappointing it is when a company fails to deliver on its promise. Those feelings are compounded when the company doesn’t seem to care that it’s failed you. Not only is this poor business, but it also erodes profits. An unhappy customer is just a step away from signing with the competition.
I won’t be flying this airline again anytime soon and I have to make sure I never get complacent with my business.
Now, think about your own landscaping company. What would you do if you were starting up a new landscaping company? What would you do differently? Write all that down this week, do it, don’t put it off, write it down and leave it as a comment below.
Isn’t it amazing as the more things change, the more things stay the same?
We’ll talk about this next week. So, start writing.
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