Thump on the head for Scotts Lawn Service

A lesson for business owners and customer service managers.

I should preface this by saying we were quite happy with Scotts Lawn Service: convenient service, affordable rates and knowledgeable technicians. But I had a recent experience with Scotts…for which a policy maker somewhere needs a Dinozzo style thump on the head.

Rewind a few weeks to the middle of February. A technician arrived for our first treatment of the season, and noticed the majority of our side and rear lawn was re-seeded and covered with straw. Before starting, he asked my permission to treat just the front, and leave the rest undisturbed. He made a note on our account to reduce our invoice by half for this service and the next, until the grass started to grow. Fair enough, so I told him to go ahead.

So, when the bill arrived at full price, I called the office to inform them what had transpired with my technician. In short, they saw the tech’s notes, but could not honor the rate he promised. When I questioned why we should pay full rate when only a fraction of the property was treated, the woman replied “$30 is the lowest rate I’m allowed to charge. And, honestly, you are already getting a really great rate.” Clearly they had no intention of standing behind their word.

True, our regular rate is quite good, and we like the results they provide. But without hesitation, I cancelled the service right then. Scotts Lawn Service crossed the line, and I acted on principle.

Scotts Lawn Service faultily assumed that I would tolerate unreasonableness and, worse yet, a broken promise, for the privilege of their great price. While unavoidable, companies need to view a customer service “problem” as an opportunity! A chance to show what that company is made of.

Please….business owners and policy makers, empower your staff to put down the script, set aside the rule book, and tackle service slip-ups with creativity. Strive to not only overcome the problem, but deliver a resolution that ultimately strengthens the bond between you and your customers.

Thoughts on a crab grass strategy after firing the lawn service?

~Posted by Gail Paxson Murray,

Gail Murray is located in Chester County, PA and has over 20 years experience in direct to consumer marketing, including web and print.  From cosmetics and premiums to financial planning and warehouse space, Gail enjoys bringing consumer-centric thinking to both B2C and B2B clients.  She is currently interested in the real estate and wholesale electric industries.

Why Visionworks doesn’t “get it.”

Being a both a consumer and a marketing professional for over 20 years, perhaps I’m not the typical “customer.” But like many of us, I have zero tolerance for businesses who take advantage of consumers by obfuscating the services they provide and how much they cost.

My teenage daughter lost her glasses, so I called Visionworks to get a quick replacement. She also needed more contact lenses.

“So you’re here for new glasses and to order your contacts, right? Because that will be two vision exams. Don’t worry, it’s all in the same appointment, but you will be charged for two separate exams, because that is our policy.”

Hmmm….this didn’t really make sense, but my insurance always covered my eye exams, glasses or contacts. I sat in on the eye exam to understand better what was happening. She read the small letters on the wall, doctor adjusted the lenses over each eye and established her prescription. He put drops in her eyes then brought in a box of contact lens samples. “Try these, see how they feel. There’s enough for 5 days in there.” She put them in, blinked, and said they felt great. And nothing more on contacts.

At the end of the visit, they ran my insurance card, and charged me a balance; the eye glass exam was covered but I owed them for a contact lens exam. I questioned it. We didn’t receive a contact lens exam per se. Oh, was that it? The part where the doctor gave us free samples?

I expressed my confusion. I never had to pay out of pocket for a routine eye exam before, neither for contacts nor glasses. Why are you charging me for a second exam? Here is the response.

If you want contacts, you have to have a contact lens exam.
If you want a contact lens exam, you first have to have an eye glass exam.
That’s our policy, you need two exams.
Your insurance company only pays for one exam.
They will discount the 2nd exam by 20%, so you only owe us $30.
I understand why you’re confused since you never had to pay that before, but I don’t know what SYSTEM your other doctor used.

So blame it on your system and your policy as you smile and take my $30! At this point, I started to come unglued, and pointedly asked the employee what incremental service the doctor provided to warrant the extra exam fee? Why was the doctor lining his pockets by double charging his customers?

“Perhaps you should call your insurance company if you have any more difficult questions!” That may be a futile effort; my insurance provider, Davis Vision, and Visionworks are both owned by the same company!

My daughter kicked me, apparently asking questions when something sounded shady was causing some discomfort for her and the sales person. At the risk of making a fool of myself, I was taking one for the team.

My line of work makes me a unique consumer, and forces me to think about the consumer while making marketing decisions. As business owners and marketers, we all need to reflect on the consumer perspective. But Visionworks doesn’t get it. We need to have straightforward descriptions of our services and policies that are fair and easy to explain to their customers. When there is a question or concern, we need to use the opportunity to build trust, mutual respect and ultimately… loyalty. In this case, Visionworks’ handling of the issue was a surefire way to sever our relationship after just one interaction.

Is it just me, am I overreacting?   Please comment.

~Posted by Gail Paxson Murray, Marketing Consultant
West Chester, Pennsylvania

MarketCulture Blog - Using a Customer Culture for Competitive Advantage

Questions to uncover customer insights

If you want really insightful information from your customers, try asking these 5 open-ended questions:

What is the one thing you think we do really well?

This question will help you identify what customers really like about doing business with you. You may have your own opinions on this, however more than likely you will be surprised by customers’ opinions on what they consider as your biggest differentiator.

What is the one thing we do that you think needs improvement?

This enables you to get real feedback on areas of your business that need improvement from a customer perspective. Some of the customer responses might be unexpected, but this is truly valuable insight for improving your business relative to actual customer experiences.

What is the one thing we do that we should stop doing?

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Figures, we sold a little over a year ago when inventory was pretty deep. By the way, KW in Exton did a great job for us!


Believe it or not in several parts of Chester County, PA, it is becoming more of a sellers market in real estate. What a difference from just a year or two ago. Bidding wars are back and that have to get there soon feeling when a “good one” hits the market is back to stress buyers’ agents out! I recently put a home on the market and got people yelling at me on the phone when I cancelled the open house because we were already under contract in less than a week. You may wonder why the change? The reason is simple- the inventory which is the number of homes available for sale has seriously declined.. there are a lot of buyers who want to take advantage of the low interest rates but not much to show them. This same time last year Chester County as a whole had approximately a…

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Well said. As I’ve recently dusted off my Twitter accounts, I see two practical uses emerging for me. Primarily as a B2B tool, as a means to share information or research topics of interest. The other use is strictly personal…if I want to maintain a relationship with our two teenagers, we have to tweet, retweet and covertly see what they’re tweeting about!

Well said. As I’ve recently dusted off my Twitter accounts, I see two practical uses emerging for me. Primarily as a B2B tool, as a means to share information or research topics of interest. The other use is strictly personal…if I want to maintain a relationship with our two teenagers, we have to tweet, retweet … Continue reading

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Settlement Nightmares!!!

This real estate story is absolutely insane, I have to repost! Emotions can run high during the home buying and selling process. Been there, done that!  If the cops are called to break up the action around the settlement table, that’s one hell of a transaction. A little hard to follow with all the different players, but it doesn’t matter.  I don’t know if I could have kept my cool!

Reposted from February 12, 2013 by