Why I finally fired my gardener: a lesson for OCS operators

Oct. 5, 2021

After years of mediocrity, I finally fired my gardening service, “Blow and Go.” I do not know why it took me so long, but when I think back to my days of selling office coffee service, I remember how frustrated I became when a facility manager made me wait endlessly to install my equipment, even though the location was suffering from an underperforming operator. I would want to scream, “Just make the call!”

All complaints, no action

Like those clients who took forever to pull the trigger, life just got in the way of firing the gardener. There was the trip, the home improvement project, the visit from out-of-town family – basic distractions, but enough to keep me from taking action, even though I complained to my wife about their poor performance every week.

Empty promises

What went wrong with Blow and Go? It started out so enthusiastically, with a focus on meeting the needs of my native landscaped home. Initially, they were always on schedule and doing extra little things to impress me. Ultimately, once the honeymoon period was over, their sales presentation turned out to be a big basket of empty promises.

There were three problems with Blow and Go:

  1. Lack of knowledge
  2. Lack of understanding
  3. Lack of caring

Lack of knowledge from Blow and Go

Blow and Go did not know much about gardening and landscaping. Anyone can show up to do the basics, like moving the trash cans to the street, but they exhibited a complete lack of expertise when it came to creating a consistent look, trimming bushes, repairing irrigation and planting water friendly landscape.

For example, every bush that we have was trimmed like the look was supposed to be French provincial – with formal hedges. I would explain, obviously frustrated, “It’s native landscaping, it’s Southwest ranch style!” They would look at me like a deer in headlights.

OCS operators: be knowledgeable

As an operator, have you taken advantage of the industry training that is available? It is critical today for an operator to be somewhat of an expert about coffee. The National Automatic Merchandising Association offers the resources to make that happen.

Being knowledgeable will help you anticipate and understand the needs of your clients. For operators who want to sell more with better results, check out the online course, Selling Convenience Services (developed by me for NAMA. Use the code B2B10 for a nice discount).

Lack of communication from Blow and Go

Blow and Go exhibited a classic lack of business communication skills. Other than an invoice, we heard nothing from the owner. When we voiced our complaints to the front-line workers (think route driver), the concern apparently never made it to the owner’s ears. When we did contact the owner directly, the result was a quick fix, a short-term remedy – with no follow up.

When I told the owner that his company was fired, he was shocked. “The crew said everything was fine,” he said.

OCS operators: stay in touch with your clients

How many times have you heard that same evaluation about an account from a driver? “Everything is fine.” Are you sure?

Are you offering your clients an opportunity to perform a customer service evaluation? Are you visiting your clients to check in on their needs, their level of satisfaction and to determine if you can serve them better – sell them more?

Put an emphasis on communicating with your clients – beyond the route driver.

Lack of caring from Blow and Go

Two things really drove me nuts:

  1. After servicing the yard, I would find a huge weed, right out in the open, that nobody thought to pick.
  2. I would look around the yard after the service was completed and after picking that huge weed myself, I would find a dead plant. Did they replace it? No. Was it dead because the drip system wasn’t working in that area? Yes. Did they do anything about it? No. Even after I told them, “Just maintain the place. If there is an extra charge, bill me. Do the job the right way.” Clearly, they did not care.

OCS operators: keep earning the business

We work hard to get the account. We earn the business. How do you ensure that your team cares and that they will continue to earn the business? I would suggest in addition to the two ways that I outlined above (be knowledgeable and stay in touch with your clients), you also need to treat your employees the right way.

Most of your front-line workers are either Gen Z or Millennials and they respond well to appreciation, fair compensation, recognition, work/life balance and a clear job objective. In addition to serving clients and their diverse corporate cultures, do not ignore your own. Create an environment that rewards performance and ensures that your employees know they are valued.

So far, things are working out well with my new gardener, “Seed & Weed.” I would like to write more about it, but I think this is a good time to go have a chat with my pool man.

About the Author

Industry consultant and Vending Market Watch contributing editor Bob Tullio is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up and advises suppliers on how to successfully connect with operators. Tullio’s YouTube channel, b2b Perspective, is designed to “elevate your business in two minutes.” Tullio is currently developing an online course, Leverage the power of LinkedIn to grow your business. Visit tullioB2B.com to learn more about VMW's contributing editor and his b2b services.


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