Are customers different post-recession? Email
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 03:44 PM
Customer service

Are customers different post-recession?

Random anecdotal comments snagged in the wind, so to speak, have indicated that customers this year are more demanding. Is this really the case?

ALCC decided it would be worthwhile to find out and asked members whether their customers are becoming more demanding and more difficult to please. The poll revealed definitive data about changes among landscape consumers and their expectations.

According to ALCC’s member poll about consumer habits, customers are spending more - and also demanding more of their designers, maintenance contractors and installers. Many attribute these changing behaviors to the fallout of the recession combined with an improving economy.

Here’s what we learned:

  • Forty percent of respondents said customers are clearly more demanding in the improved economy of 2014. 
  • Another 29% indicated that customers seem to be more demanding in light of certain variables. “It depends,” they said, such as when clients want to be in more control of their investment. Being overly cautious, they do come across as somewhat more demanding.

What’s changed?

The recession bred extreme value consciousness that drove prices down among companies that were hungry for work. In an improving economy with increasing demand for services as well as rising labor and materials costs, consumers can’t shop prices the same way as before. Their more-bang-for-the-buck expectation adopted in recession times has morphed into a new mindset: “I’m justified to expect more because I’m paying more.”

Company comments were consistent: “We can’t seem to get off a job.” “Customers expect more extras.” “They’re picky, wanting a lot for minimal cost. They hover, ask lots of detailed questions and quibble during the bid process.” “Projects are more complicated to get through.” “Customers are more demanding in how quickly they want pricing and designs and how quickly they expect the job to be completed.” “There are more change orders and ‘oh, since you’re here, can you . . . ?’” “Callers get angry when we tell them how far out our backlog is.”

One design/build owner said “Those who have wealth are less demanding – but those with a more limited budget tend to be more demanding about service and quality of materials.” Others said clients are doing more homework and that, too, has some negative impact. Another echoed, “They feel as though they have become experts on each and every topic.” One owner pointed out the word-of-mouth value in keeping difficult clients happy: “People that can be difficult to please often know it and once the job is done, are more than willing to tell their friends.” Still others noted that even if price increases were minimal, expectations have still risen.

The post-recession economy has produced new dots, all of which have yet to be connected. One of the connections, however, seems to be that with more work out there to be done – and less labor to get it done - companies now have an opportunity to be more selective about the clients they will accept.

We will be exploring this further in the next print issue of Colorado Green magazine released in January. Stay tuned and be ready to turn the pages rather than scroll down the screen.

Customer service photo by Thad Zajdowicz.

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green NOW:
What you told us about 2014 buying trends
Colorado ranks high in energy efficiency
It all comes down to condos
Cara Doyle: women's roundtable has lasting effects