Managing Other People’s Gardens

John Mueller

Early in my career I learned that knowing what and when to prune was difficult to ascertain. In my mind it was simple….. It was late winter or early spring and when that geranium was old and woody. The euryops was too big for the area it was planted in and needed hard pruning back for shape. Away I went…… I was very proud of myself! I had completed the task and knew that the new flush of growth in a couple months would be green and vibrant. The color display later would be amazing. By the time I had got home that night and listened to the phone messages, I had been fired.

Apparently, on occasion, Mrs. Customer did not appreciate all my hard work. In her eyes I had just committed the most egregious error known to man. It took her years to grow her plants to the state they were in before I came along. Words like; butchered, ruined, and killed were blurted out on the message tape like I was some kind of serial plant murderer. I was devastated. I immediately began questioning my actions. Was the Sunset Western Garden Book wrong? Were my teachers at The Cuyamaca Horticulture dept. wrong? Were my previous supervisors at the campus I used to work at wrong? Why did just about every commercial property in town show the same type of winter pruning in their landscapes? The obvious answer was… NO!

Managing other peoples gardens can be difficult at times. Mrs Smith likes her roebeleniis to be pruned to a “V” every time and Mrs Adams wants them left full and touching the ground, only trimming the dead brown leaves. What’s a gardener to do?

Eventually, as we grew, we purchased software that would keep track of all the specific notes required to service someone’s property. The software enabled us to keep track of the “impossible”. Each day we printed out a “route sheet” with the list of jobs needing to be done that day, by that crew. It contained the notes needed for every property. As time went on, we added notes to those jobs as needed. If a client made a request to the crew leader on that day about how they wanted a certain task done, that information went on the route sheet and later into the software becoming a permanent note.

I am happy to say that this system works the majority of the time, but not all the time! People do make mistakes and some things slip through the cracks. Sometimes another crew has to cover for the day because of illness. Having these notes automatically printed on the route sheet helps the new crew to know what is expected with each property.

This level of detail has helped us provide a customer service experience much higher than the typical gardener serving the residential market. It is the reason we are able to maintain a consistent schedule throughout the year. Sometimes we have delays and cannot service every client on their normal day. There are things we are just not able to control like a crew member calling in sick or family emergency. Sometimes workers decide to move on to other employment opportunities. That being said….. the amount of new clients that choose us to provide their gardening services, because their current provider stopped showing up, is very high. Reliability is one of the top 5 complaints we hear about other providers.

Having multiple crews with the ability to cover for missing workers; having daily route sheets with detailed information about each job; having an office staff trained to facilitate the whole process, helps us to “manage other peoples gardens” to a high level of client expectation and satisfaction.

We hope we always fulfill your expectations, but if ever we don’t, help us then to better understand your needs.  We so appreciate your business, and we will work hard to keep it. -John

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