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Account Manager Excellence: Going Beyond the Call of Duty

Last week Focal Pointe representatives attended the Account Manager Excellence regional workshop through the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). The two-day event, held in downtown St. Louis, featured landscape industry experts Ken Thomas and Ben Gandy of Envisor Consulting discussing ideas and strategies for effective account management. More than 70 account managers and business owners from across the country attended the workshop, including five account managers from Focal Pointe: Cody Azotea, Elyse Harpstrite, Sharon Morris, TJ Rau, and Craig Spihlman.

Over the course of two days, many excellent topics related to landscaping account management were discussed including leadership, working with different personalities, and customer service excellence. Below is a summary of some of the key takeaways from the workshop:

What makes a great Account Manager?

One of the first things covered in the workshop was defining our role as account managers. Account managers manage the quality of service, help resolve issues, and work with field operations staff to deliver the company promise. As leaders, we are the face of our company and represent our firm’s mission. At Focal Pointe, that mission is:

To be an innovative, professional service company dedicated to providing our customers with distinctive landcare solutions and superior service. By achieving this mission, we will add quality to the lives of our clients, colleagues, families and the community.

It is our goal to be our clients’ trusted advisor by successfully delivering on all promises. This means taking a proactive approach, communicating effectively, and offering expert advice to our clients.

WHY do you do what you do?

Next, the speakers offered insight from Simon Sinek’s best-selling book, Start With Why. In this book, Sinek talks about the Golden Circle – WHAT, HOW, and WHY do we do what we do? Sinek tells us: people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

From the book: “A company, indeed any organization, must work actively to remind everyone WHY the company exists. WHY it was founded in the first place. What it believes. They need to hold everyone in the company accountable to the values and guiding principles.”

Focal Pointe account manager, Elyse Harpstrite, particularly enjoyed learning about the Golden Circle. She summarized:

“WHAT: Every organization knows what they do and the services they offer.
HOW: A few organizations know how they do it. These are the things we do to set us apart from our competition.
WHY: This is the difficult part. Very few organizations know why they do what they do. The why is our purpose, our cause, and our beliefs. Everything should start with the WHY.”

Account manager Cody Azotea agreed: “The whole workshop was great, but the big takeaway for me was the WHY.  Truly knowing the purpose of what we do each and every day – not only in business but in life. Understanding that Focal Pointe is about more than just landscaping. It may be WHAT we do, but it’s not WHY we do it.”

Sharon Morris went a step further, taking an introspective look at her own WHY: “My WHY is that I want to leave our planet to my children and my children’s children in better shape than I found it. I like to look to the future, and as an account manager, I encourage our clients to do the same. By helping clients choose native species and supporting sustainable practices, I am fulfilling my WHY every day.”

Understanding our WHY allows us to be authentic and operate with purpose. At Focal Pointe, our WHY can be summed up with the following:

Since 1998, Focal Pointe has operated under a timeless vision that began with the simple idea that there is an inherent joy in serving others and showcasing nature’s seasons. That we treat everyone how we want to be treated. Defining our success by the satisfaction of our clients, and the personal growth of our professional team.

Learning About Ourselves and Each Other

Excellent communication and customer relationship skills are essential to being the best account managers we can be. Gaining a better understanding of ourselves and others makes us better able to relate to one another. To this end, the presenters used the DISC Personality Assessment as one way of thinking about the different perspectives and communication styles each one of us may bring.

Focal Pointe account manager Craig Spihlman said, I enjoyed the conversation about different personality types and learning the benefits and potential shortcomings of each. Working and communicating with each type has equal benefits and limitations – the key is to identify these personality types on the front side of the conversation and engage appropriately.”

Elyse Harpstrite added, “I appreciated learning how to work with different personalities in an office environment and in a client environment. It is very important to understand that everyone has their own way of thinking and no one’s way of thinking is wrong or right. We all must respect each other and adapt to each other’s personality traits.”

At Focal Pointe, clients are assigned to account managers very thoughtfully and deliberately, with careful consideration to who provides the style of communication and management best-suited to that particular client.

Extra Mile Service

The next segment of the workshop focused on going the extra mile for our clients. The key to customer service excellence is in our service – we always work to exceed our clients’ expectations. As their trusted advisor, this is what differentiates Focal Pointe from our competitors.

The presenters also discussed the importance of recovery when service breaks down. If a problem arises, as account managers we always strive to resolve the problem to our customer’s satisfaction with a fair and thoughtful solution.

Enhancements (additional work that falls outside basic contracted services) are another way that we can provide excellent service by helping our clients solve problems. The workshop focused on three basic reasons for enhancements: Safety & Security, Function, and Aesthetics.

Safety & Security enhancements solve issues such as sight lines, overgrown shrubs, trip hazards, blocked lighting, and hazard trees. Functional enhancements solve a specific problem such as inadequate or poor drainage, irrigation, pedestrian wear, or natural encroachment. Aesthetic enhancements solve issues with curb appeal, marketing, or asset value.

For Focal Pointe account manager T.J. Rau, the section on enhancements offered some great insight. T.J. said, “My biggest takeaways related to enhancements. I thought it was a great idea to break it down into the three categories. I also liked the idea of not trying to do too much with an enhancement budget. Often the person making the financial decisions is not on-site. By concentrating the enhancement budget into a smaller area on the site, it provides a bigger impact. If we tried to spread the same budget throughout the campus or site, the impact could be lost. The enhancements performed should be impactful on someone even if they are not a regular on the site.”

The workshop concluded each day with round table discussions where attendees talked about what they had learned and their commitments to specific actions or changes as a result. The five of us from Focal Pointe all returned from the event energized and renewed in our commitment to embody the Focal Pointe Way.

“Going far beyond the call of duty, doing more than others expect…this is what excellence is all about. And it comes from striving, maintaining the highest standards, looking after the smallest detail, and going the extra mile.  Excellence means doing your very best. In everything, in every way.” – Jack Johnson