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When Is The Best Time To Switch My Green Industry CRM?

October 25, 2021

You may be starting in the Green Industry, and wondering “When is the right time to begin using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software?” Perhaps you run an established business and are currently using software that doesn’t quite meet your needs. In any event, the best time to start or make a change with software for most lawn care, tree care, and landscaping companies is in the Winter. Without question, this is when to switch your CRM.

You may be asking yourself, “Why?” or “How can this guy be so confident about his answer?” Both are good questions, and I’ll give you my reasons why below.

Implementation

Most tree care, landscape, and lawn care businesses operate seasonally with the growing season. That means in the Spring, Summer, and Fall, you’re still very, very busy. Winter slows down for many of us unless you get a lot of snow and offer to plow.

This reduced workload means that your business has extra time to focus on researching, selecting, and implementing a new system, making it the best time to switch CRMs. The time involved with the research and selection of a new CRM software is up to you. From research to post-implementation bugs, the whole process can take up to six months for some businesses. Many options do not take that long, but that means you don’t have time to play around, either. 

However, when it comes to implementing that software, you’ll need to work with your new provider to see how long that takes. That implementation time varies from platform to platform. Some may have you up and running in days. Others may take months. For many, there’s a sort of “middle ground” where you can use the software pretty quickly, but it may take some time to flesh out the pricing and data you need to import or enter into the system. 

Training

Not many people look forward to massive change. As a result, you’ll need to think about more than just the time to implement the software. You’ll also need to consider the training schedule for your team. 

Your seasonally reduced workload means that you’ll have more time to bring key staff members into the loop on how to use the software. Your managers, schedulers, Sales team, and crew supervisors should all be trained. They should all learn where to find customer contact information, job history, accepted proposals, pertinent reports for their area of responsibility, and the scheduled jobs. 

Depending on the CRM you choose, you may have help from the software company with this training. Figure out what that looks like. Do you get a series of videos that walk you through the process, or does the company offer real-time training (virtual or in-person) for your team? If the former, you may have to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the software so you can train your team. That’s an additional time (days or weeks) that you may need to budget for.

Fluency

Once your team has been trained, they’ll need to use the software to build fluency. The more comfortable they are with the program, the more likely they are to use it and embrace it. 

If you’re a landscape, lawn care, or tree care company that offers recurring services (i.e., maintenance work or Plant Health Care treatments), training your staff on using new software before they begin this process is necessary. The repetitive nature of generating new proposals will help them build the fluency they need to be completely comfortable before the rush of requests for work starts the following Spring. Again, this means Winter is the best time to switch CRMs.

Some software offers a “legacy” option, where much of the data will transfer over. Some may move job specifics (yards of mulch, man-hours, plant material, etc.), but most will transfer customer data alone. Go back to your records and see which customers have an edging and mulching job or treatments for their dogwood’s anthracnose every year. If your Sales staff begins to enter those jobs into the new program, they’ll build fluency at a tremendous rate. 

That workflow should also impact your scheduling team. Once the Sales builds fluency and new jobs are entered, it will trickle down to your schedulers and crews. They’ll begin to learn what their daily interactions with the software will look like, too. 

Bugs When Switching CRM

What is a process? According to Kissflow, “A business process is a series of steps performed by a group of stakeholders to achieve a concrete goal.” Whether it’s brand new to you or making a change from another product, picking up new software will necessarily involve some changes to your sales, scheduling, and production processes. It’s going to happen pretty organically; you’ll learn what the software can do to help you work more efficiently, and you’ll make adjustments. 

No change is without hiccups, however. There will be some “bugs” in the systems you’ve created around your new software. It is going to happen. 

Knowing this ahead of time and planning for these bugs is crucial to deciding when to make this type of change. If you begin to onboard a new software while your workload is slightly slower, and everyone involved has time to see the bugs and give helpful feedback about changes that improve the process, the better off you’ll be. 

Waiting until you’re too busy to think clearly about the process means you’ll undoubtedly miss critical steps to make the transition smooth and crucial feedback from your team. Don’t put yourself in a time crunch by waiting too long to pull the trigger. 

Client Communication

If your software is going to change the nature of the way your business communicates with your customers in any way, you should learn those things sooner rather than later. 

I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. I once worked for a landscape company that switched from using physical letters for annual renewals to using an email version. We used our mailing service (MailChimp) to tell clients the change was happening. We communicated it through social media. Our Inside Sales and Customer Service team members actually told all the clients they spoke with that their renewals would be coming in an email version rather than a physical letter. 

So that means we 1) emailed them, 2) put it on social media, and 3) physically spoke to many of our customers to communicate this change. And you know what happened? Many of them missed it. It was crazy how many people didn’t get it. Some did get the message but were so resistant to change that they, I kid you not, printed the emails and mailed us checks to prepay for their services

No matter how much you try to communicate with clients, some of them will inevitably miss the memo. And that means that your office staff is in a pinch; they’re answering time-consuming questions about when we made the change, what email address the correspondence was from, why didn’t we communicate with them, etc. 

Don’t put your office staff in a bad spot by making this type of change at the wrong time of year. Make sure they have time to answer your customer’s questions. That’s a better experience for everyone involved.