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Business Owners & Managers

Give Them The Pickle: A Lesson in Customer Service

By Brian Fullerton of Brian's Lawn Maintenance

Let me take you back to fall of 2002. It was the first marketing class offered by my high school. I was passionate about everything sales and marketing, and I had known the teacher - a family friend - for some years.

This was my earliest teachings on the topic of customer service, and I feel like this is where a lot of my first ambitions were kindled.

Within a few weeks, we had digested a few lesson plans and opened a few books, which, of course, were out-dated by almost a decade. On a positive note, we heard from a couple of local business owners in town.

Almost 15 years later, the one experience that stood out to me is a cheesy video that we watched about customer service. It was called "Give Them The Pickle."

The speaker was a guy named Robert Farrell, a businessman and sales trainer, who worked in restaurants his entire life. He shared an experience in which a customer complained about being charged for an additional pickle. He wasn't accustomed to this; at other restaurants, he always got an extra pickle at no charge, when asked. His complaint got back to Mr. Farrell who took this as a serious matter.

Not only was this customer service insight, but it also calibrated his life's philosophy of treating your customers right.

This video and Mr. Farrell's advice is what I remember every day after starting my enterprise and had my very first customer. When it comes to taking care of customers in the lawn and landscape business, we must always remember to "go the extra mile."

Yes, we make sure that we take pride in our work and leave a job well done, that's a given. However, customers are going to expect - and want - a little more.

They're going to want something that is going to be just outside the realm of what the job pays. A proverbial pickle.

And so, here's my advice: Don't be afraid to de-weed that little flower bed in the corner, which isn't included in your price.

Go ahead and trim that backwood line, even though the weekly cut doesn't include it. Honor the customer's request to blow off his/her vehicles after you mow, just because you know they always have their cars washed.

It's all those little things we can do, to take care of the customer, and make them feel special.

Today, so many years after Mr. Farrell's lesson I have come to realize that we are there to service the customer, not the other way around.

And that starts with the understanding that the customer is the most critical part of your business. Without them, no one gets paid. No one gets what they want. Nothing moves forward without the customer.

Don't even get lost in the shuffle of profits, policies, systems, or "they need us" mentality. That will be the quickest way, in my opinion, for your business to crumble and fail.

From first-hand experience, adopting this philosophy of taking care of the customer first, has established my business. Giving them what they expect, and then (within reason) making sure to go a little above and beyond, has solidified my customers' loyalty.

As service businesses, we must remember that we're here to serve the customer, not the other way around. Take care of them. And for Pete's sake, give them the pickle!

Brian Fullerton
Brian's Lawn Maintenance
UAG Member 2017