Steve Kennedy, owner of Dew Drop Lawn Sprinklers, inspires his irrigation technicians to work harder and more efficiently.
Photo courtesy of Dew Drop Lawn Sprinklers

Steve Kennedy doesn’t believe in sales commission. “I don’t want to give my irrigation technicians an incentive to sell customers something they might not need,” says the owner of Dew Drop Lawn Sprinklers, based in West Long Branch, N.J.

What Kennedy wants is to ensure that customers’ irrigation systems are delivering the most value possible, and this requires identifying broken or bent sprinkler heads, leaks and other issues that crop up. The problem is, during sprinkler activation season, his seven two-man crews are swamped with full days of turning on systems.

When could they take extra time to document ways to improve the system? How could he motivate technicians to document issues on the spot so proposals for add-on services could be drawn up in a timely manner?

Kennedy worked on this problem for a number of years before implementing a process that’s a triple win, benefiting clients, technicians and the company’s bottom line. There’s still no sales commission involved, but there is certainly a financial incentive.

After completing a system activation or visiting a property for any other reason, technicians fill out the company’s standard electronic form through a smart phone app.

Except, now the bottom of the form includes drop-down menus for issues they identify: leaking heads, installing new zones for landscape beds, installing pot emitter zones, straightening heads and so on.

“If they see a head is located in the wrong place or is crooked, leaking, whatever, they never wanted to take the time to document it because it slowed them down,” Kennedy relates. “Now, they add those remarks from the system activation service call.”

Those jobsite notes are automatically routed to the office via the software platform. Then, office personnel write up proposals based on those notes.

Proposals are distributed via email to customers, who can approve the work if they choose. Most of them do, and this generates extra work for technicians, Kennedy explains.

“We are shelling out proposals every day, and our guys are finding opportunities to improve customers’ irrigation systems.” Steve Kennedy, owner of Dew Drop Lawn Sprinklers

Now, Kennedy can keep his irrigation technicians on staff longer into the season, whereas before he would lay off about three crews after activation season was completed. “We are shelling out proposals every day, and our guys are finding opportunities to improve customers’ irrigation systems,” Kennedy says.

At first, Kennedy promised technicians that they would get to perform the work for every accepted proposal, which resulted in more hours and bigger paychecks for those who adopted the system. Today, everyone is on board and work is distributed based on the property’s location.

Kennedy says the company has about 40% more work to perform mid-summer than before this proposal system was in place. “I have one technician who would typically be laid off for two months during the summer, and now he has one month off – which he doesn’t mind,” Kennedy says.

The system didn’t go over easily at first. But after a couple of years, technicians realized that taking a few minutes after each activation service to note other issues on the property would generate more work for them after the spring/early summer rush ended.

A Keep-It-Simple System.

Dew Drop already had an app-based business system in place that irrigation technicians use to generate service visit notes. The system allows technicians to access their schedules, parts lists and to record remarks from service calls. “At the bottom of an activation call, they can type in additional work needed,” Kennedy says.

By building this “add-on work” section into the existing form, technicians only needed to complete one simple extra step. Making it even easier, the “notes” section includes drop-down menus. “They can select ‘rotor head’ or ‘leaking head’ and they can fill in the number of heads,” he explains. “It saves them time.”

When there was push back about notes, Kennedy reminded them it was really no different than texting.

Friendly Competition.

Once irrigation technicians at Dew Drop began building up their schedules with more work from accepted proposals, the whole team started taking notice.

“If one technician saw an issue on a property that another tech didn’t catch, he’d harass him about it – our guys are competitive, and they don’t want to miss out on a job,” Kennedy says.

Not to mention, if one technician was earning hours of extra work (and pay) because of taking the time to add notes to service write-ups that resulted in proposals, others wanted to know how they could clock more hours, too.

At the end of the day, the process Dew Drop Lawn Sprinklers implemented to boost its billable hours not only elevates customer service, it benefits employees and the bottom line. “Technicians realize they are not getting laid off as long as they used to,” Kennedy says.