As the busy season gets underway, it’s inevitable that irrigation contractors are going to be spending more time face-to-face with clients and with each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tech, in sales, running the company or all of the above, communication skills are absolutely crucial to polish to keep things running smoothly during the rush. Here are some ways to leverage existing practices to improve your communication abilities regardless of whether you’re communicating internally or externally.
In the Summer 2022 issue of Irrigation & Lighting Carol Brzozowski discusses the various ways irrigation contractors can leverage email newsletters to maintain communication with their clients even in the offseason. A well-made newsletter is a chance to highlight exciting projects and promote special promotions.
John Wimberg, vice president of Wimberg Landscaping, an irrigation and lighting service provider in Cincinnati, Ohio, told Brzozowski that while he doesn’t know for certain how many people read the newsletters, for those who do, “I’m sure it’s triggering something in their mind occasionally to call the company about a service.”
“One thing we use the newsletters for is to push certain types of work we want to sell,” he says. “We’ve written about honeysuckle removal and pollinator gardens. They work as a nice form of advertisement for your services.”
Brzozowski’s interview with Ben Van Der Brink, owner of B & K Landscaping, produced some suggestions for professionals looking to get started on a newsletter.
“Start with talking about things your company does or can do, because not everybody knows what each and every company is capable of or what type of services they offer,” he said. “Companies specialize in certain things. Touch on that in the newsletter.”
Lauren Sable Freiman wrote in the Summer 2022 issue of Irrigation & Lighting about the importance of building and maintaining effective lines of communication between team members when on an installation. Effective communication from the early planning stages of the project is the only way to guarantee that everyone is on the same page, she wrote.
Matt Carli, lead designer for Moonlighting Landscape Lighting Systems in Charleston, South Carolina, put the importance of intra-team communication in even more illuminated terms and suggested some ideas to make top-to-bottom communication a breeze.
“Having good coordination from the top, whether it is the landscape architect, the home builder, the homeowner or someone else who is running the project, is important,” said Carli. “Several months before the contractors come in, we have a preconstruction meeting, where we review everyone’s plans and identify any potential hurdles we could have in terms of lighting.”
Dave Underwood, CIC, CID, CLIA, president of Chesapeake Irrigation & Lighting in Millersville, Maryland, told Sable Freiman that attitude counts.
“Because all our trades are hands on, when you’re on-site and can visibly walk around and talk about what will be impacted by various trades, you can really dig down into the details,” Underwood says. “We go in with a positive mindset and try to remind everyone that we are on the same team. It’s not a competition, and the more we help each other and coordinate, the smoother the project will go, which benefits everyone.”
Digital communication considerations
Irrigation & Lighting columnist Chris Pine wrote in the March 2023 issue of the magazine about how important leveraging digital communication methods are when dealing with current and prospective clients.
Today’s needs for customer engagement and regular communication are very different from the past when a couple of post cards in the mail and a phone call from the office might have been sufficient. The expectations today are for more frequent interaction with electronic communication, reviews, social media and regular updates throughout a project or service call by text or email, Pine wrote.
Pine goes on to suggest that there are many strategies on how to effectively communicate your message to clients but it’s essential to “explain why the prices are going up but it is more helpful to focus on what a company is doing to better manage or anticipate this in the future or perhaps present some alternative services or products if they are available,” rather than bombarding the client with excuses and unnecessary information.
He wraps the column up with a simple thought, “before you hit send, though, take a second or third look at the message you are sending and keep it focused on the benefit to your customers to meet their needs.”
Read more about communication.