Be A Listening Bird and Watch the Dollars Fly Into Your Pockets

I just had my front lawn landscaped.  I have been trying to get this particular job done and off my To Do list for seven years.  Yes, SEVEN years.  I’ve hired people, we’ve sat down and worked out plans, picked out plants, and they don’t show up.  Very frustrating. (Luckily, I hadn’t paid any of them!)

But, as of last night, my yard looks Be-You-Ti-Ful!  I am SO happy that I don’t have the ugliest house on the block anymore, I could just sit on my front porch and giggle.  That’s how pretty it is.

And, yet, I’m a little annoyed, okay, a lot annoyed, with my landscaper.  He’s a great guy, and he’s creative and most of all, he showed up.  All of which I’m thrilled about.  However, throughout this whole process, since our first meeting back in February, I kept telling him: “Joe, I want my yard to be beautiful, but I don’t want to have to do anything.  I have dollars, and I will give them to YOU to do it.  I just don’t have the time.”

I used those very words:  I just don’t have the time.

But, let’s back up a minute so I can walk you through the scenario.  Yesterday, Joe and his crew showed up at my house about an hour before lunch with a truck full of plants and truck full of mulch, and got right to work.  I had a hard time keeping my focus because I was so excited my landscaping was going in, and went out to check on them two or three times just to see how things were shaping up.  He had told me that once plants were in, I’d need to keep them nicely watered a couple of times a day until they got over the shock of being planted.  No problem, I went to the store and bought all kinds of hoses and gizmos so that Joe could set it up and all I had to do was turn on the water (no watering system at this house, unfortunately).  Because, remember, back in February and a couple of times since, I’d said I don’t have time to do anything.  I needed him to do it.

Well, at about eight-thirty that evening they are finally done.  My yard is fantastic, my neighbors are stopping to look, and, oh yeah, the sun is going down.  That’s when Joe tells me *I* am going to have to put out the hoses.

Which makes me a very unhappy customer.  At that moment, I go from giggling with happiness to bitchy annoyance in about two seconds flat.  Anybody want to guess why?

Okay, really, putting out hoses shouldn’t be that big a deal, right?  Nope.  Wrong.  Really, really wrong.  It’s not the hoses.  It’s that I’ve been telling him, literally for months, that I don’t have time to deal with the landscaping.  I can turn on the faucet a couple of times a day, no problem, but I am not the kind of girl who is going to stand in her front yard for an hour or so every night and water plants.  It’s just not going to happen.  I’m going to get a call or a text or an email and have to handle some sort of problem, and then the plants that I just paid a lot of money for are going to die.  Yay team.

Let’s be clear: the problem here is not about watering hoses.  The problem is a failure to hear the customer and a missed opportunity to provide value.  Even if I hadn’t been saying that I wanted to have to do as little as possible, if I had walked outside yesterday evening and Joe had said, “Look Michelle, we set up the hoses and sprinklers, all you have to do is turn on the faucet once in the morning and once in the evening, and then sit back and enjoy your new yard.”  How happy would I have been?   Pretty darn happy.  I would have had a new beautiful yard and I would have been able to sit on my front porch last night and enjoy it.  When my mom made a special trip over to see my new yard, I would have been able to walk around and point out all the new plants, and extoll the virtues of my new landscaper and his team.


I had to drag hoses around the yard at eight o’clock on a hot, muggy night in June.  Not to mention that I lost an hour of time I could have been answering email or writing a new post for you, and I needed to take a shower before I could go to bed because I was sweaty and filthy from dragging hoses through mulch.

This whole episode is an lesson in listening.  If my landscaper had been listening he would have heard me say “I want a beautiful yard, and I will pay you to do it.”  What’s more, he would have realized that if he can accrue a little goodwill with me by laying out my watering hoses, he’s going to have my trust, and when I think of him, I’m going to think about how wonderful my yard looks and how easy he was to work with.  Once that happens, I will then become the kind of customer that he can call up or email and tell me he’s running a special and for a couple of hundred dollars someone on his team can stop by and plant containers for my front porch and deck to make them as nice looking as my yard, and I will say “Do it!”.  Or, he can call me in the spring and fall and tell me he can plant specific flowers for that time of year to punch up my landscaping in some way and make my yard beautiful.  Maybe I won’t always say yes, but, if he’s left me feeling wonderful every time he visits, I bet I say yes more often than I say no.

And that kind of customer is what I like to call “a money customer”.  The kind of customer who loves you and wants your services because you’re good and they FEEL GOOD handing over dollars to you because they know you’re providing a service and, most of all, value.  His team was tired and hot and wanted to go home, and you have to take care of your team, I totally get that.  However, when his customer went inside the house last night, she was tired and hot and cranky, too.

Really, people, it’s not about the damn hoses.

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