A Tradition of Expertise: Client Education Plays an Essential Role in Customer Service
It was August 1994. Steve Mattingly was attending his first Indiana State Lawn Care Association Field Day. Little did he know then how much his business would grow in the next seventeen years.
Steve and his brothers began mowing lawns when they were in school. Their parents paid for the boys to attend Catholic school, leaving the boys on their own for spending money. Their collective lawn-mowing experience opened Steve’s eyes to the opportunity of owning a lawn care business that extended beyond mowing. He studied commercial horticulture and landscape management design at Purdue University in order to have the education required to build the business he envisioned. And when he graduated, with the collaboration of his brothers, the family business of Mattingly Lawn Care was born.
That field day back in August 1994 was critical to Mattingly Lawn Care’s success. Steve didn’t have clients yet. He’d only just graduated and received his Category 3b license for turf. He had gone to field day because he knew spraying was where the opportunities were, and he went there to learn more.
That was the day he met Dan Dunham, a sales representative with Advanced Turf Solutions. Dan had a sprayer tank on the back of his truck, which drew Steve to him. He and Dan got to talking about sprayers and chemicals. Steve bought his first spray tank that day from Dan.
But Dan wasn’t just a salesman to Steve.
“He helped me write my program,” Mattingly says. “He helped me set my prices.”
Dan educated Steve on the various chemicals and their active ingredients, helping him to understand the benefits and properties he could expect with each. He became his consultant, who not only influenced his buying decisions, but also became the person he came to with questions or problems because, “He always had the right answers,” Steve says.
Eventually, Dan moved on, and Steve began working with Bill Worley. Reluctant at first because, as Mattingly says, “I didn’t know Bill. Nobody likes change, but Bill was great. He’s easy to get along with. Now, he’s like one of us. He’s family. But he’s also my salesman. If there’s something going on or something coming down the pipe, I can count on him. “
It might sound like an exaggeration to say that his sales representative is like family, but there’s no exaggeration in those words. For the last twelve years, Steve dresses up like Santa Clause for Bill’s annual Christmas party.
Their friendship stemmed from a relationship based on trust and reliability.
“There’s a line between business and personal, but it doesn’t seem like business,” Mattingly says. “If I need something, I call him and I get it. Simple.”
Though his representative changed over the years, the education he receives from Bill continues. As Steve puts it, “They [Advanced Turf] help keep me on the forefront of lawn care and technology. They’re my technical experts if I have a question or a need a solution to a problem. If he [Bill] can’t answer it, he has a network. So if someone asks me something, and I don’t know, I can always go to him.”
Though he’s been in the business for seventeen years and his ATS representative changed from when he first began, Bill Worley is still Mattingly’s primary resource for knowledge.
“The knowledge we have isn’t about selling products for a price. Our knowledge helps our customers,” Worley says. “Agronomy is a science. Lots can happen out there that our customers don’t know how to identify. That’s where we come in. We can go walk the turf, see what the problem is, and help them find the right solution.”
Mattingly carries that same philosophy of educating his own clients today. “We’re the experts for our customers,” he says. “It’s my job to educate my customer to give them what they want, and they will take better care of it because I educated them.”
Client education is customer service for ATS and for Mattingly. As Worley sees it, “It is about relationships and trust. It isn’t about a price. It is about service.”