Since when did great customer service become something that we are surprised by? We have grown so accustomed to little, if any, customer service that even the smallest gestures often catch us off guard. I started to say that I don't even remember the last time that I experienced great customer service, but that's flat-out wrong. The fact is, I do remember. And that's the point. While we nearly always let poor customer service (known nowadays as “regular” customer service) occur without notice, great — and sometimes simply good — customer service grabs us and forces us to take notice. Most of all, it compels us to share our good experience with friends (and sometimes even strangers — I'm a loud talker). Great customer service can give your business the best kind of endorsement: word of mouth. And it's free.

Recently I attended a one-day seminar in Ft. Myers, Fla., sponsored by Bayer Environmental Science as part of their annual Summit Series. This one was called, “Healthy Lawns, Healthy Business.” One of the items on the agenda for the afternoon was a 45-minute presentation by Sig Hutchinson, president of Sig Hutchinson & Associates. His topic: Tactics to help grow your business and overall profits. As I sat among the 60 or so lawn care operators and prepared to hear about add-on services and pricing, Mr. Hutchinson began talking about customer service. With all of the planning and preparation you put into your business, if you are not concentrating on customer service, you are not maximizing your potential. Common sense? Yes and no. It takes effort and it has to be genuine. Smiling and saying “thank you” results in good customer service. Sincere and honest appreciation that reflects a genuine interest in others results in great customer service.

While you may be doing many of these things as part of your regular customer service, take a look at some of the suggestions offered by Mr. Hutchinson.

Smile. Even when your client is pointing out every small detail of things he “would like to see you improve on.”

Remember names. It's hard to remember everyone you meet. But if you see them as a potential client, you'll impress them by using their name the next time you see or talk to them.

Work on your attitude. You may have a good attitude, but are you genuine? If you have a genuine interest in your clients, it shows. If you don't, you can't hide it.

Follow what Mr. Hutchinson calls the “Platinum Rule”: Do unto others as they would want you to do unto them.

Write handwritten notes to clients to thank them for their business.

If your clients own dogs, take dog biscuits to them when you are servicing their property.

Bring up the newspaper from the driveway.

Send birthday cards to your clients.

Remember, good customer service is expected. Great customer service is the unexpected.

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