20 Jun

Weed Your Customer Garden

DandylionA few weeks ago, my neighbor Sophie cornered me while I was taking out the garbage.

“Dandelions are pretty bad this year, huh?” she said, nodding pointedly at the yellow heads littering my front lawn.

“Umm… yeah… really bad,” I stammered back.

This is the part where I explain that Sophie’s lawn looks like a lush green carpet. You know, the kind you see pictured on a big box of grass seed at the hardware store.

Our lawn, in embarrassingly striking contrast, has more, how shall I put this, “biodiversity”.

After a few years living in suburbia, I have come to learn that your merits as a human being are highly correlated with the quality of your lawn. Personally, my view is that dandelions are kind of pretty and lawns are a silly way to communicate your status to the world. So I haven’t really paid much attention to ours.

Plus, having a health crop of dandelions allows me to indulge in the fantasy that I will one day make healthy dandelion green salads and dandelion wine.

Until that happy day arrives, however, and not wanting the neighbors coming after me with pitchforks and torches, I decided to suck it up this year and put in the yard work required.

You’ll be happy to learn that in the midst of my weeding, watering, top-seeding, and compost-spreading, I had many hours (many, many hours) with which to reflect on the similarities between lawn care and customer experience.

When you take care, people notice

While out there with my weed-puller, I had many neighbors pass by and strike up a sympathetic conversation about the perils of weed management. As they saw me there, day after day in the early morning and evening, they would comment on my progress and cheer me on. “You’re winning the battle!” They would enthuse. (I wasn’t.)

The same is true when you take care of your customers: People notice. You become known as an organization that listens and pays attention.

If you don’t deal with the root problem, it will only get worse

In previous years, I never bothered to pull up the weeds by their roots. I just mowed them down (pathetic, I know) or sent my kids out to snap the flower heads off the dandelions. The results were predictable. Not only did the problem not go away, the weeds multiplied and spread. Soon my entire lawn was overtaken.

The same holds true with customer dissatisfaction. If you only address the symptoms after they occur, you may pretty things up for a day or two. But these types of band-aid fixes don’t address the root cause. Soon – very soon – the problem will grow and spread.

To have a nice lawn, you need to create the base conditions for excellence

Pulling up weeds is all very nice, but if you’re looking for lasting impact, you’ll also need certain fundamentals in place. That means nurturing and taking care of your soil – by aerating, fertilizing, watering and applying compost.

With customer experience, it’s likewise fine to do nice things like running conferences or offering promotions and giveaways. But here too, if you don’t take care of the fundamentals – gathering and acting upon customer feedback – you’ll forever be putting out fires, spinning your wheels and making little progress.

Consistency matters

In the land of top-seeding, the mantra (so I’m told) is “If they dry, they die”. That means you need to keep the lawn moist, every day, for 14-28 days. This requires consistent dedication. Even a single missed day in the hot sun can lead to dried out seeds, forcing you to start over.

Your customers are no different. Those big events – customer appreciation conferences, user group panels, etc. – are vital. But unless you keep those relationships wet, I mean nurtured, you’ll find yourself forced to start over too.

Keep these simple but powerful, customer experience concepts in mind as you plan your time, staffing and budgets. As with lawn care, there’s a lot going on out of sight and beneath the surface. A little extra attention now will save you effort, money and the disapproving eye of neighbors in the future!

Photo Credit: Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/ahCuht