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Contractor/Small Business Corner


Time to Sweat the Small Stuff By Robert Latham, CIC, CID, CLIA


Let’s face it — there is no doubt we live in a world where quality tends to suffer at the expense of getting our wants and needs met at an incredibly fast rate. Consider how Amazon.com has changed the way we buy things. Not only can you order all your daily home needs online (e.g., toothpaste, paper towels, dish detergent), it can even be as easy as pushing a Wi-Fi-enabled button located in your laundry room simply labeled “Tide.” In many large metropolitan markets, items are shipped and delivered the very same day. I won’t even get into the drone delivery service, which is just plain mind-blowing.


However, Amazon does two things extremely well and efficiently: service and support. From doing a simple no-hassle return online, to chatting with a customer service representative, to making an exchange of incorrect products, they have made their “small stuff” something to brag about.


Catching Up With Technology


Let’s consider our industry, the turf and landscape irrigation business, which is our livelihood. Generally speaking, we are a production/service-based industry that hasn’t evolved nearly as fast as the technology industry, all things considered. But, there are increasing signs that the irrigation industry is slowly adopting technology into its sector, such as using Wi-Fi-enabled controllers, marketing through social media, working with various review sites to bolster credibility and utilizing GPS and service scheduling technology to increase efficiencies. Taking this into consideration, how do these advancements trickle down and subsequently benefit our customers? Those customers, OUR customers, have quickly become acclimated to Amazon- level service, and we should take every opportunity possible to “wow” them.


With all the advancements in technology where our industry tends to lag behind by 10 or more years, what simple things can we do as manufacturers, distributors and contractors to make that customer experience a great one? I firmly believe that our attention has to be on making every experience a positive experience, even in the smallest of forms. The following discusses a selection of these “small things.”


Creating a Strong First Impression


First, let’s consider image. Putting forth a professional image can and should be every company’s number one goal. There’s no second chance for a first impression, so why waste a perfectly good opportunity to show up the competition? For a contractor, this includes keeping clean vehicles and equipment. Don’t show up to today’s job sites with yesterday’s mud on the trencher. It not only shows a sense of pride, but it also helps keep equipment running smoothly and makes locating potential serious issues much easier.


This also includes having a company dress code in place. Make sure employees are dressed appropriately for the work they are performing and in clean attire. I observe problems in this area repeatedly in the field. If I notice it while dropping off job site materials, don’t you think customers notice it as well?


Eliminating Shortcuts


Leave customers with a quality product. The system you install is your fingerprint. Contractors tend to develop bad habits and shortcuts when installing irrigation over the course of many years, and most are not visible to the undiscerning eye of the homeowner. Simple details leave small imprints on the system reflective of a contractor that cares versus one that is merely there to throw material in the ground and get paid. These include tasks such as using a level to mount a controller instead of eyeballing it, mounting control wires in conduit or pipe instead of stapling or just hanging out of the controller, and


32 Irrigation TODAY | January 2017


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