Setting and managing client expectations in the landscaping world

16 Nov
Setting and managing client expectations in the landscaping world

Landscape maintenance businesses, like any other business with clients and customers, has to work to manage expectations.

It’s an essential part of keeping your client base happy and developing strong relationships, which helps enormously when it comes to repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Any customer-facing business that has to provide a service will know that expectations can vary wildly from person to person and job to job. It's your job as a business owner to ensure that those expectations are managed so the customer experience remains at a high level.

Seasoned professionals will likely have their customer strategy perfected at this stage of their careers, but for new landscape professionals it can be a tricky balancing act to achieve.

These are a few tips to help ensure your relationship with clients are positive and productive.

1. Set transparent and realistic goals

While it might seem tempting to tell your clients exactly what they want to hear to win a new project, the worst thing you can do is over promise and under deliver.

To manage expectations for clients, your first step should be establishing that your own schedule and prices are realistic expectations to have.

If you set yourself impossible goals and fail to stay on track, it will only reflect negatively on you and your business. A repeated failure to complete projects within your stated timeline will harm your reputation, and ultimately damage your future prospects within the industry.

Temper expectations

Temper your customer's expectations from the very first conversation, and speak honestly and openly about what they can expect from you and the timeline of the work.

Many customers will have little experience with the detail of lawn care and landscaping, so explaining the reality of what can be achieved in a given time frame and budget is vital. Educating clients on the ins and outs of landscaping – while avoiding sounding patronising of course! – is a great way to temper expectations.

Bear in mind that a budget in itself can create an expectation of a level of service, quality and speed. For example, if you make an exceptional offer, they will expect an exceptional service and quality. If you or your team are unable to meet their demands on time, it could damage the reputation of your business in the future.

Setting a reasonable expectation of what can be achieved will help you keep your customers happy.

2. Set clear boundaries

Establish clear boundaries with your clients from the beginning of your relationship, and you will find managing expectations far easier. This is particularly important if you price per job rather than by the hour.

Some clients may request additional services be included after the cost has already been agreed and the job started, but expect it free of charge under the same project fee. Delivering these extra tasks will not have been factored into your budget, and neither you nor your team can likely afford the loss of time, resources and profit margin this could cause.

Even a one-off extra job may create the expectation of more down the line. While most clients will be understanding if you explain why you cannot do additional work, either through the process of calculating a budget, or your other operations, it is best to be firm with your boundaries ahead of the work actually starting.

Good communication is vital

Honesty and communication are essential when setting boundaries. Being honest about what a routine job entails can help prevent any issues later on resulting from a simple lack of understanding. Asking the customer to sign a contract outlining the work to be undertaken is also worth considering.

You should communicate well and set expectations from the very beginning; ideally, you should be able to tell if you – and your team, if you have one – have the capability (including the necessary equipment!) and capacity to work with a customer from an initial phone call or a first site visit, as soon as the scope of the work becomes clear.

3. Figure out a pricing structure

As mentioned previously, your pricing structure will have a big impact on your ability to both set and manage customer expectations for your landscape maintenance business.

The two most common pricing structures for landscape maintenance businesses are by the hour or per project. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, and have different potential issues.

Paid per hour

Landscape professionals that are paid by the hour are guaranteed to be paid for every hour of their services, but will be more closely monitored by their clients, who are more likely to question their progress if the promised work takes longer than expected. Relationships with clients are harder to maintain, as they will begin to feel aggrieved if the costs climb.

Paid per project

Per project requires landscape business owners to calculate all of their costs and overheads beforehand. While this can be difficult for newcomers, it quickly becomes easier to calculate with experience. It's important not to fall into the trap of offering unsustainably low prices to try and tempt new customers, as this will harm the growth of your business and potentially cause it to fail. It creates an expectation that ultimately can't be fulfilled.

There are many companies in the landscaping industry that offer this pricing structure, however, as it puts you in control of timescales. Projects that are completed earlier than expected are more profitable, and you won't feel under pressure to deliver a service that is rushed. Clients are often more satisfied with this pricing structure, as they are aware of the full cost from the start.

For either pricing structure, particularly when dealing with large, one-off projects, you should ensure both parties sign a contract agreeing to the work. If you're new to landscape maintenance and want some tips on how to price landscaping jobs, read our guide here.

4. Build strong relationships with clients

Friendly, personal service is essential for building strong relationships. While your relationship with clients is a professional one, making it as personable as possible will help you keep a solid customer base in a competitive industry. If you have a team, try to ensure it's always the same contact speaking to a client.

Starting off a new client relationship with an honest and open conversation about your mutual expectations is a great way to start.

Good communication is the key to a strong relationship with your client; always being willing to answer any questions they may have, keeping them up to date on your progress and taking the time to explain what you're doing will really be appreciated.

As António Jimenez Alvarez, owner of AgroMotions, an independent mechanic business based in Andalusia, Spain commented, "My job is as much about teaching as it is repair! It’s especially helpful to explain the technical terms to my customers - even my international customers. They really appreciate that. A lot of businesses don’t do that, so the client won’t know what they’re referring to."

Taking the time to get to know your customers will help with the growth of your business - if they like and respect you, they're more likely to use you again or recommend you to others! It also makes conversations about expectations easier, as you already have a strong relationship with the customer.

Landscape businesses and client expectations

Essentially, being honest and upfront about your own expectations will help you to manage those of your clients. A clear pricing structure is vital, but good communication is the real key to managing your clients' expectations.

By following these basic tips and learning from your own experiences, you will soon start to navigate the world of client relationships more confidently and see your business grow.

Landscape maintenance businesses, like any other customer facing business that provides a service, have to work to build trust and relationships with their clients. An essential part of building trust is not just setting expectations, but to meet the expectations you have set. Following the advice throughout this article is important, but ensuring your work is up to standard and delivered on schedule is vital. Without consistent high-level performance, your business is unlikely to succeed no matter how personable you are with clients.

To help build trust, you need to be reliable – and so does your equipment. To consistently provide the best service, you need tools that can perform at a high level on a commercial scale. For high-quality equipment with power you can rely on, take a look at the machinery Powered by Kawasaki today.