Again today I received a harsh lesson in customer service – rather a lesson in how not to do it. Since moving to Windermere in May of last year we have used Massey Services for all sorts of things. I liked the idea of having everything in one place – pest proofing the house, pest control, termite protection, sprinkler systems, weed control – and I’ve spent well over 10 thousand dollars in the last year with Massey Services updating our sprinkler system, securing the roof eves of the house we bought, for termite control and in monthly payments for other services. Thursday I walked out to get the mail and glanced at the front yard. I was not happy with what I saw.

There were 6-8 foot holes in our grass and the stark contrast with our neighbor’s yard was evident. I called Massey and explained that I’d been paying them to take care of the yard (and the sprinklers) but that the yard looked terrible. I was told a manager would be out the next day. The lady on the phone was very nice and assured me that it would be taken care of. Today I spoke to said manager and it went like this:

“I went out to your yard and everything looked pretty good but a couple of spots” the manager said.

“If by ‘a couple spots’ you mean the three 6-8 foot holes in the grass in the front yard then yes, I agree” I said.

“Yes, I noticed a couple spots in the front yard but the back yard looks really good” the manager said.

“Agreed. Everything in the yard looks good except for the part that people can actually see – specifically the HOA who will fine me for a yard that looks like this”. I retorted.

“The spots have uncontrollable weeds that aren’t covered by your services. We can take care of that for you if you’d like” the manager informed me.

“From what I can see there is nothing in the holes in my yard and now you’re saying it’s not your fault and you didn’t even bother to tell me that these ‘uncontrollable weeds’ were supposedly making the yard I pay you to maintain look like crap?” I replied.

It went on like this for a while – the manager telling me why it’s not his problem or his fault and me asking what I thought were reasonable questions based on what I was told when I signed up with Massey Services. Long story short he said he would give me a discount and split the cost of repairing my yard (this was over and above the normal monthly contract that I’ve been faithfully paying for them to avoid stuff like this happening in the first place from what I could tell). Of course I found this unacceptable and will choose one of the multitude of lawn/pest services that manage to keep my neighbors’ lawns looking good.

Why do you care? I’m sure you don’t care a bit about my yard but I write all this to remind myself (and hopefully a few of you) the cost of allowing things to go this way when you own a business where people pay you monthly for your time and service. Stuff happens, things go wrong, employees and managers mess up, even business owners mess up, life happens! It’s impossible to avoid mess ups but it’s crucial to handle the outlier failures well and make things right for customers who are paying us big bucks. I’ve been guilty at times of allowing my business to grow beyond my ability to oversee everything and as a result I’ve had managers/employees who failed to handle situations like this in the way I would have. And my business paid the price. But I’ve learned my lesson and now recognize that a motivated owner/operator rendering great care bolstered by excellent customer service is the best model for the vast majority of us orthodontists going forward. If you can deliver in this kind of model, you should have nothing to fear from corporate dentistry, new delivery channels or any of the other changes happening in orthodontics. Consumers will always value and pay for this kind of delivery model (how much they will pay over time is another topic of discussion). There are tons of options out there for people to choose from when it comes to getting the smile they desire so it is imperative that we owner/operators keep our hands and eyes and ears on as much of what happens in our offices daily as humanly possible. It is not possible to see and hear everything that is happening but we should strive for that as well as making sure that any outliers, problems, failures, upsets or potential conflicts are passed up to the chain to the owner so that you can oversee these key interactions that will ultimately enhance or detract from your business.

I can’t thank Massey Services for the way they “took care of” me or my yard but I certainly do appreciate the reminder of what one should and shouldn’t do to/for a client who has spent thousands of dollars when they have a legitimate complaint with the services I’m supposed to be rendering and the results I’m supposed to be getting.