Troublesome Customers and New Offerings.

A while back, I was asked a question about how a lawn company should have dealt with a troublesome customer. The customer had sent an email complaining about how his lawn looked, and wasn’t kind in the email. This customer was upset at how his lawn looked compared to other neighbors because he wasn’t in the first mowing date of the season since they couldn’t do all the neighborhood lawns in a single day, and he used a few different phrases which all indicated to me that the customer was upset with his status. To me it was clear, this guy wants to have the nicest lawn in the neighborhood at all times.

The lawn business owner took it upon himself to say, “Find a new service provider.” He possibly missed an opportunity. He didn’t see that this customer was obsessed about his relative status, he only saw that the customer was mad and didn’t want to work with angry people like this. The words were there, “my lawn looks like sh*t compared to my neighbors” and a few other lines to indicate that he cared about his status in the neighborhood. “Compared to my neighbors” was typed for a reason after all.

This was an opportunity to upsell. “Sorry, we didn’t provide what you wanted this time. Would you like our premium service? That entitles you to priority lawn mowing, putting you first on our schedule each season, double the occurrence on the mowing to make sure your lawn always looks tidy and trim, and options on a mowing pattern, we can make your lawn look like Wimbledon if you would like. It’s for people who want the nicest yard in town.” Then charge triple for that service and see if he wants it. People who like status are generally used to paying for either through frequency (how often they visit a restaurant), or pricing (paying for luxury goods).

For the lawn service owner, he likely responded too hastily to an email without thinking more deeply about it. In the moment, when someone approaches you with anger, it’s not always easy to keep cool and make the right call, but with an email there is time for more deliberation. He should have taken that time and asked for advice before responding. Instead he responded then asked, “Should I have done this differently?”

Customer service is a differentiator of any business. THE differentiator is most businesses. Whenever there is trouble with a customer, the first thought should be “Do we need another offering to serve these kinds of customers?” If the answer is yes, offer it to them and the price you need to charge. If that’s out of the question for them, then it’s time to figure out how to tell them you can’t serve them appropriately for their needs.