Customer Service in the Landscape Gardening business.
I think there is a common misconception about tradespeople and gardeners. We operate in a sort of netherworld, defined by our practical skills, perceived as never being behind a desk and never, therefore, being within reach of a telephone. Because of this, I often suspect that we are regarded as being hard to contact. It’s the sort of psychology that leads people to assume that those of us who work in practical fields aren’t very hot on customer service.
For me, and Instant Scenery, nothing could be further from the truth. My business model is all about client retention: seasons change, but there is always a new one on the way. Plants may die, but lawns and hedges will always need cutting. As I like to point out to my clients, my job in landscaping and gardening is more caretaker: we can tame nature, but we are not her master. There are always things to be done in a garden!
I run Instant Scenery with customer service foremost in my mind. For those of you who have read my previous blogs, you might recall how, at the start of each week, I will spend time calling my clients and discussing the weekly activities that I carry out in their gardens. This is a great way of building relationships and maintaining a frequent dialogue about what they want to achieve and to identify future problems before they actually arise.
Often, we go the extra mile for our clients. With the Easter weekend just gone, a client had their young grandchildren coming over to spend a few days in the Heart of England. As a small treat, we hid (not too convincingly) some small chocolate eggs in the herbaceous border and in the hornbeam hedge, with a very rough map of the garden, which, to improve the educational value of the game, we marked on some of the natural landscapes: “So, ten feet from the base of the oak tree due west, beyond the daffodils, you will find . . .” It was a pleasant exercise, and one which should mean the children can now tell the difference between an oak, a birch (with it’s “peeling silver bark”), and an ash tree (whilst we still have some of those left).
Our services to our customers goes beyond mere treats and parlour niceties however. Patrolling the borders and the beds for any ‘undesirables’ is an issue I take very seriously. Last year, I identified a particular nemesis of mine growing in a garden not far from a canal, where the species has taken hold throughout England. The plant in question was giant hogweed, and it is a very dangerous plant indeed, where the sap can cause scarring burns and even blindness. It’s not too dissimilar to cow parsley, (note the purple shade and spots), and if you aren’t aware of it is easy to miss, especially for someone who is unaware that it exists. Yet every summer you can bet your last penny that local and perhaps national papers will offer stories of families enjoying a day out, only to wade through giant hogweed and suffer horrendous injuries. Perhaps most unfortunate of all, it is usually children who are prone to this, often suffering facial burns.
It isn’t just hogweed that is on my genocide list either. There are numerous plants that need, by law, to be controlled and to be prevented from spreading. Indeed, plants like common ragwort (a key species for the declining Cinnabar Moth), spear thistle, and curled doc, if spread from your land to agricultural land used for grazing, could land you with a potential fine or even prosecution if animals suffer from eating these weeds that originated from your property. Indeed, if you are landscaping your garden then it is absolutely imperative that you make sure such plants are not disposed of with excess soil: to allow these weeds to get into the wild from contaminated soil or green waste can lead to a £5000 fine – or, in severe cases, to two years in prison!
Gardens can be dangerous things: it is foolish to think any of nature is harmless. So when we come to your property, it is not just our labour that is being bought, but our genuine expertise, built up by years of practical studying and subsequently of more hands on work. And it is our customer service, delivering more than simple gardening and hedge-trimming, that we pride ourselves on most of all.
So the next time you have a suspicious weed in your garden, please let us know. We might save you from more than just an unsightly weed!