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The Nutsedge Effect

Do the people answering the phones at your company know the biz, or are they just taking messages for callbacks?

Green Lawn
Getty Images

We use a vendor to keep our grass looking unnaturally green. The type of green where you don’t really want to know what chemicals they’re using to deliver all that viridescence. These guys have a killer reputation in our market. That’s pretty much all they do; they come out in a truck sloshing around with chemicals and spray them on your yard. After they leave, they stick a slick little sign in your front yard that’s more of a badge of prestige than an eyesore. They’ve nailed their marketing. All their messaging is about “respecting the lawn” and the wizardry of using an artisanal blend of grass seed to achieve the perfect yard. My interactions for the most part have been through their web site and our service guy. I’ve never had to call them until last week. That’s when things got a little sideways.

Also by Henry Clifford: What to Say When Asked, “Is This Your Best Price?”

One of the key reasons I hired this company is because I hate Nutsedge. Before you reach for your Funk & Wagnalls, permit me to enlighten you. Think back to the last time you had sushi and admired the plastic, shiny green grass adorning your bento box. Now imagine that same plastic grass shooting up all over your yard at twice the growth rate of its neighboring fescue. There’s my first world problem. It’s absolutely maddening, and I was assured from day one that my days of seeing sushi grass (Nutsedge) growing in my yard were over. “Take my damn money,” I said.

Fast forward to last week. There I was, pulling into my driveway and to what did my wondering eyes appear? Nutsedge! I pulled out my phone immediately and called the green yard company (I’ve chosen to let them remain nameless here). The phone rang a few times and soon a friendly voice answered. I exchanged pleasantries and immediately started in on my tale of woe and how the world was ending because Nutsedge was taking over my yard, threatening my children, etc. What followed next inspired me to write this blog. She had no idea what Nutsedge was. My anger increased. Here I was, looking for assurance and next steps, now talking with someone who should’ve understood the basics of lawn issues and how to address them. I spelled the word for her; “N-U-T-S-E-D-G-E.”  I grew more frustrated. Finally I realized that me getting angry with this nice lady trying to do her job wasn’t going to produce any positive results, so I thanked her and hung up. To be fair, I did get a voicemail within 24 hours confirming that we were on deck for a treatment the next day and Nutsedge was on the targeted list of greenery slated for execution. Drama over.

Why did I just tell you this meandering story about Nutsedge? What the hell does that have to do with custom installation? How about everything? How about Nutsedge could’ve easily been “sound but no picture” or “slow Wi-Fi”?  Now think about who you have answering the phone at your company. Is it you? How many of those calls go to voicemail? Too many? What about the calls that do get answered? If you’ve grown beyond the owner’s cell phone, chances are there’s a member of your office staff answering the phone. Their specialty might be accounting or administrative tasks vs. dialing in an AVR. How much do they know about our industry? Have you trained them, or just hope for the best?

Also by Henry Clifford: Gilding the Corners

My Nutsedge drama really made me think about my business and how we answer the phone. Thankfully we have invested in training opportunities for our administrative staff and they do an amazing job dealing with all sorts of oddball questions. When we can’t answer the phone, Parasol’s All Call service handles any rollover calls so nobody gets voicemail [full disclosure: I’m a co-founder of Parasol]. I wish I could say the same for our sales calls. We’re not handling those calls live and usually depend on our office staff or Parasol to capture basic details so the sales team can handle them as needed. One of the tweaks we’ve made to our inbound sales and service calls over the past few months is trying to turn everything into an appointment (virtual or in-person). That way any one of our staff interacting with a client over the phone can use our booking page to get them scheduled right away, no call back necessary. This change has reduced office workload and made our customers really happy. The biggest challenge is keeping our appointment window out a few days vs. a few weeks.

What do your customers experience when they call you? Can they get their “Nutsedge” questions answered the first time or are you succumbing to the sin of “we’ll have someone call you back?”

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.