Problem Solved!


By Phil Harwood

Think of a time when you thought a job was complete but, as it turned out, there was an unresolved problem that presented itself afterward. Your account manager may have noticed the lingering problem or your client brought it to your attention. Either way, the problem was real and couldn’t be ignored. It needed to be solved for the job to be truly complete. OK, now for the more important question. 

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The question then becomes, “How are you going to respond?” And, perhaps even more importantly, when are you going to respond? There are three approaches. I’ve recently had the opportunity to experience two of them. 

The first approach is to do the job, take the money, and then disappear. This approach will quickly put a company out of business and I would be shocked if any readers of this blog post take this approach. But it is out there so, “buyer beware!” Thankfully, this is the one approach I have not recently experienced! 

The second approach is to acknowledge the existence of the unresolved problem but treat it like a nuisance or a new job. In other words, the company puts the repair work order at the end of the schedule or basically says they will “get to it when they can.” This is essentially code for “when it’s convenient for them.” The client is left with an unfinished project for an extended period of time. Even worse, every day that passes is another day for negative feelings to fester and frustrations to build. 

Cindy and I had a carpet runner installed on a staircase in our home just before Christmas. We love the carpet quality but the piece was cut wrong, which meant that the runner was noticeably not centered on each step. The installer pointed out the flaw when he noticed it, as he was installing it. But we opted to have the improperly cut carpet installed anyway to get us through the Christmas season and have them make it right afterward. We still have a crooked runner. They are in communication with us, so this is clearly not the first approach. And we’re confident that the carpet will eventually be replaced, but I will not be recommending this company.

The third approach is to respond with urgency to the unresolved issue and solve it immediately. This approach communicates to the client that the company cares about its customers and its reputation immensely. But it requires operational capacity and planning to execute. Companies that do not build in capacity for repairs, call-backs, or punch-list items are going to struggle with responding to them. 

We also had several plumbing projects done one day by one of our favorite service providers who offers multiple services. There were two issues that resulted from the work they had done that presented themselves at separate times afterward. In both cases, the company jumped on it by responding rapidly and solving the problem the same day we called. One of the issues will involve an insurance claim on their end due to their mistake. Despite the inconvenience of these call-backs and repair work, we are even more satisfied clients due the company’s responsiveness. 

Building in operational capacity to be able to quickly and effectively respond to an unresolved issue is one of the hallmarks of a great service business. This is one of the many areas we will be discussing in detail at our upcoming two-day workshop for snow pros, Grounds and Institutional Snow Management, being held July 20-21. This workshop is being held at the SnowEx factory in Madison Heights, Michigan. SnowEx is also hosting a one-day workshop on liquid de-icing on July 22. Registration for both events is now open at

Tags: Operations , Problem Solving , Grounds Management ,