The truth about TruGreen
The purpose of this four part essay is to clarify the problems which ail the TruGreen-ChemLawn company, why they are problems, and exactly what causes the situations in reference. The overall content of this essay will be broken down into four parts regarding issues in customer service, issues with employee payroll, issues with the sales force, and issues surrounding the high turnover of employees that the TruGreen-ChemLawn company experiences. I myself was an employee of the TruGreen-ChemLawn company and have held the majority of entry-level positions within the company. I believe that my essay will help to clarify these issues because of my unique perspective within the company.
The customer service department of the TruGreen-ChemLawn corporation is designed in a way that is purposefully not helpful. Let's not forget that these people take calls from consumers who have been done wrong, and are constantly made the scapegoat for all of the shortcomings of the corporation. Having been an employee of the company, I have had my fair share of experiences with angry consumers; people say nasty things to those who are undeserving of the ridicule, which consequently hardens the employee to completely disregard the consumer's opinions as well as their problems. Those who answer the phones are not to blame, and due to the call center put in place by the corporation, often times are not even local to you. The real problem with the customer service at TruGreen is that the process is structured to delude consumers into thinking the issues have been noted and handled, when in reality the problem is just handed off to another individual who is often times already burdened down with an unbearable workload. Customer service representatives have to be as much of a salesman as the force of salesmen located two hallways away from them; they are required to "save" a certain amount of consumers who wish to cancel services. This is the part where relations which are already troubled between the corporation and consumer take a turn for the worse, as representatives who are on their cancel/save borderline will tell you the account has been canceled, when in reality it is listed in the computer as a cancel-save in order to avoid the consequences of poor numbers. These numbers are taken by the corporate office as a reflection of the representative's poor job performance as opposed to a consequence of the cancer that is corporate business. That is why it is fundamentally important that consumers follow these two simple rules when cancelling their accounts with the TruGreen company. The first piece of advice is to never cancel with a salesman. Very rarely does a salesman take time out of his busy schedule to perform customer service tasks, for reasons which will be addressed later in this essay. This is often the convenient solution for the consumer, as the salesmen call multiple times daily and the customer service representatives never call, but it will simply lead to further frustration on behalf of the consumer. The second bit of advice I have for the consumer is to always demand a confirmation number from the customer service representative; this forces the representative to do the right thing and close the account. If possible, obtain the direct number to your local office to avoid the rabbit-hole that is the Call Center, and be sure to log the names of all representatives you have dealt with. Following this advice will result in a more efficient, less frustrating, and fool-proof method of cancellation. With a confirmation number in record, any further services completed by the corporation can not be billed in the name of the consumer. One of the biggest problems in the issue of customer service regarding the TruGreen company is in the call center that ServiceMaster has put in place to deal with the overwhelming amount of calls the company receives. Attempting to reach customer service locally is a headache, because upon the consumer's request of such, the consumer is then placed into a vortex of call-forwarding to several location throughout the continental U.S. This is the major force behind the consumer's opinion that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand's doing. Customer service logs are recorded locally, and as result each time to talk to a representative at a different location they often times have no way of confirming your customer service history. This structure of customer service is designed with intent. The left hand does in fact know what the right hand is doing, and doesn't care. In the technology industry, we would compare TruGreen's method of customer service with obfuscation. It is designed in a way that is purposefully misleading in order to confuse the customer into continuing service without any real changes being made. One feature of the service TruGreen has recently implemented to deal with the demand of consumers to be pre-notified of service dates is a computer system called 'Trudy'. Trudy simply calls the list of scheduled customers one or two business days in advance to their scheduled treatment date. If workloads were scheduled in a way that they could easily be performed within a reasonable work day, this would never be an issue and I am sure that consumers would be quite pleased. The problem is that TruGreen seeks to maximize profit by overloading their employees with work; more work than what can be performed correctly within a reasonable amount of time. It is the policy of the company to call customers when an appointment is missed, but often times there are a multiple consumers whose appointments have been missed. After working 10-12 hours, the employee is then expected to call and apologize to the consumers whose appointment were missed; which can often times lead to long conversations on the phone with consumers who are not happy with the condition of their lawn. In many cases, the already frustrated employees simply write this responsibility off and go home to their families.
In my research of customer complaints, I have noticed that there is a lot of hostility toward the employees themselves. Now although the actions of a certain minority of these employees are simply inexcusable, I think that in many cases the resentment is unfair. The poor attitudes and disregard for consumers stems from the frustration of simply trying to do their jobs. In the previous season, I was a salesman for part of the year and finished last season as an applicator. The two positions are unique in comparison to one another in all ways except that they are incredibly stressful. Working in the department of sales is mentally stressful just as the position of an applicator is physically stressful. In each department, employees are expected to exceed minimum quotas for sales and production at risk of losing their job in the inability to exceed these expectations. Surely, enforcing a certain amount of productivity in your employees is a sensible thing to do when running a business, however in this issue there is a line in the sand separating reasonable from greedy, which the TruGreen corporation has catapulted over. Salesmen are forced to operate dishonestly to keep their job, and applicators are forced to perform poorly in order to meet their expectations as well. This is not as much of a problem in the employees as in the structure of employment within the company itself. These expectations are only one part of the total responsibility of the employees, however. For example, applicators are expected to perform D.O.T inspections on their company vehicles to ensure everything is in working order. Even when an employee points out a problem with the vehicle or equipment, it is only actually addressed if it hinders their ability to work, or if inspectors are coming in to enforce regulations. On top of this, applicators are also expected to handle consumer complaints that come in locally, as customer service representatives are unable to perform any action other than cancelling accounts or tricking customers into maintaining the service, and applicators must also call missed appointments and newly registered consumers. This is all theoretical of course ;-). If you are a TruGreen customer and have had a good experience, most likely it is because you have a personal relationship with your applicator and they are familiar with your needs already, which is always a connection which must be initiated by the consumer due to the overwhelming stack of expectations placed on the applicator. As if a heavy workload wasn't enough to frustrate the employee, the employee must also endure problems of work compensation, which is often the most frustrating factors of all in the experience as a TruGreen employee. These conditions are improving due to class action lawsuits, but are still hardly up to par. This problem is best clarified by my overall experience as a TruGreen employee. I am a college student, and as such must work part time through the majority of the year. The TruGreen company offered the highest paying job position which would work around my college schedule, which consequently left me blind to the real issues behind payroll within the company for an extended period of time. As I was always part time, I was paid a decent hourly wage for my hours which were almost always under forty hours during the period I was in school. I was, and still am grateful to the company for the opportunity to have worked there, as I would not have earned nearly as much working for another company. However, during my summer break I was worked full-time as an applicator, and as integrity and honor are important characteristic to me personally, I performed all of the expectations given to me in the best manner I could regardless of the amount of time I spent in doing so. I soon found myself working in excess of 70 hours per week (prior to the introduction of Trudy and other customer service related expectations laid on the applicators), bringing home below minimum wage compensations at the end of it all. The reason that I was paid exponentially less the harder I worked is because TruGreen paid their employees by a fluctuating work week method. In essence, what this means is that the employee is paid a salary wage, and is paid half of what their equivalent hourly wage is for any hours worked "overtime". This is known as 'Half-time' and is joking referred to as "chinese overtime" within the company. In addition to this salary wage, I was paid a commission on the values I produced at 5%, which was nothing more than a futile attempt to bridge the gap between the wage difference, made futile by the very tactics TruGreen uses to accrue residential accounts. Each applicator at TruGreen is purposefully scheduled more work than is expected to be done in a day, with the expectations still being much higher than what can reasonably be done, mostly due to inefficiencies in pricing and scheduling/routing. In essence, job expectations are structured in a way that demotivates hard work, which as anyone of intelligence should be able to predict, leads to a slip in job performance. During this season at TruGreen, commission checks disappeared, which takes from the employee the motivation to simply produce as much as possible, even to the extent of "ghosting" lawns, a term used within the company by the applicators themselves which refers to the act of leaving a consumer with an invoice on the door explaining services which had not been done, or simply cutting as many corners as possible within the treatment. The fluctuating work week has been replaced with an hourly wage, however workloads on the employees have increased without substantial increase in earned compensations.
In my research of consumer complaints, I have also notice a common theme in that the salesmen at TruGreen are perceived to be liars. It is my point to emphasize that many of these lies are perpetrated blindly. In a lot of cases, salesmen aren't even aware that they are lying, and in the majority of other cases they are simply lying to protect their jobs. One of the biggest problems with the sales force at TruGreen is simply in their high turnover of employees, an issue which I have decided to dedicate the next section of this essay to. Salesmen at TruGreen are expected to sell over a minimum sales goal each week they are employed with the company. Once again, such requisites are entirely sensible within reason, however TruGreen has once again catapulted over this line in the sand, expecting performance which is extremely difficult to obtain in the current market, and impossible to obtain in an honest manner. Thus, any salesmen at TruGreen who wishes to remain as such for long must do nothing but push consumers into services they may not need or be interested in. I mean nothing in a completely literal manner, which is the exact reason that customer service is so poor when dealing with salesmen. The only way to get them to do what you want them to is to buy the service they are selling, and in many cases even then consumer needs are ignored by the drive to move on and ensure employment into the next week. In order to help them push services, salesmen who are unable to persuade potential consumers are given scripts to read back to the consumer, designed to instill interest and force a buy. These facts, in addition to the problems caused by the turnover of employees is what drives the train of misinformation. Although TruGreen provides and very loosely enforces a price list, salesmen in today's market are forced to use certain tactics to compete. They rely heavily on persuasion and personality, but will resort to price gouging in order to "buy the sale". The structure of pricing at TruGreen is by absolutely no means proportionate; consumers are simply priced by their ability to negotiate in combination with the employee's ability to negotiate with their sales managers. There are of course numbers that even TruGreen will now refuse to stoop to, but as an applicator I have been forced to apply chemicals to lawns (on foot) which are as much as a quarter acre, all the way up to multiple acres, at a price which I know the company was losing money on, not to mention the amount of extra hours I was forced to work due to the unusually low price. Production goals set at a certain amount of money without regard to the surface area which must be applied, and as such spending 45 minutes or more to apply chemicals to a lawn a quarter acre in size or larger, only to obtain $39 toward my $1200 daily goal is incredibly ridiculous. The worst case I experienced myself was a 3 acre lawn priced to be done at $58 per application. I cannot lie, even despite the pride I have in morality and honor, I ghosted that lawn. Salesmen are forced to result to these kinds of tactics in order to reach their own goals and ensure their own jobs. It is simply a vicious circle of frustration, and it is due to the corporations policies regarding the conduction of business.
Another of the largest issues which lead to negative consumer experience is the astronomical turnover rate of employees the company has in all departments. This problem is undoubtedly caused by the maltreatment of the employees, as I have explained above. The real question at hand is why this continues to be a problem, as its cause seems to be rather self-evident, especially over time. Upon the reflection of such a question, one can only be left to assume that the problem is ignored because the corporation stands to gain from it. The turnover rate of salesmen cause a hefty load of misinformation to be given to the customer, if not simply to keep their job, then due to a general lack of knowledge. TruGreen remains free of liability to this misinformation because it can be written off as a mistake by a new employee, however these mistakes are compounded again and again by each new employee who simply doesn't know any better. TruGreen maintains distance from this issues because they have training videos which give basic information to the new employee, and existing employees receive a continuance of education in the field for as long as they continue to be employed with the company. When I hired in, these training videos were approximately two to two and a half hours in length, and were constantly interrupted by managers and completely ignored by new employees in the absence of managers. Although mildly educational, the videos do not supply a new employee with the knowledge necessary to paint an accurate picture of service detail for the consumer, and thus the salesmen in the field are forced to fill in the blanks with assumptions which in many cases are wrong. The truth is that it takes time to learn what a lawn needs and when it is needed, and over my employment with TruGreen I learned a considerable amount regarding the biology and chemistry behind the field of work. It should suffice to say that I now know more about lawns than the average consumer will ever know, but in the case of a new employee this knowledge has not yet been attained, and very seldom does an employee last long enough with the company to learn the things I know. Since I first hired into the company, they have began to address some of these issues with a more in-depth training procedure, however due to my experience with the new hires of this season I must say that the increased training has done little to solve the problem. The rate of turnover is still astronomical, and the base knowledge is still not present. Based upon the current state of affairs, one can only logically assume that the driving force behind this lack of action is in the money made by hiring new and knowledge-less employees as opposed to finding quality workers to educate and consequently issue a series of raises to over an extended period of time. Raises are very few and extremely far between at the TruGreen company, and tenured employees seldom push the envelope simply to maintain their position. In essence, the majority of raises are received by promotion rather than increased value as an employee. It makes sense that the latter is a more costly option, although more beneficial to business in the long run, these actions boost revenues and therefore dividends in the short term.
In light of the points made in this essay, it becomes apparent that many of the issues consumers face when doing business with TruGreen stems from, in one way or another, the maltreatment of their employees, on a most basic level. Upon analyzing many of the reviews of the company it is very self-evident that the corporation's business practices are unethical, and despite that the majority of this essay has not touched the issue these problems are caused by an outside factor that none have yet considered thus far in the multitude of complaints against the company. Many say the service is horrible because of the employees, while others claim the service is lacking due to the policies of the corporation. I maintain that both takes of the situation are correct in their own ways. The employees, however, cannot be blamed for the structure of the corporate policies which force them to perform their jobs in the way they do. In the same breath, the corporation itself cannot be blamed for doing what it is inherently designed to do; it is the means taken to achieve the ends which cause the disorder and frustration, which fully stem from our economic system and its regulatory process. Corporations are inherently designed to develop a margin of profit and then increase that profit consistently and as widely as possible as time progresses. Instead of pointing the finger at the corporation which is doing exactly what it was designed to do, and at the employees who are doing their jobs in the only way they can humanly do them, we should instead turn to the rules we develop to regulate corporations as well as our process of consistently enforcing these rules. Corporations will never do the right thing out of good will, they will do whatever they can to cut spending and increase dividends to keep shareholders happy. Thus, said corporations will not treat their employees well unless an outside force requires them to do so, and bears considerable and yet reasonable consequences for neglecting to do so. When reasonable regulations are enforced properly, the consumer will find that the experience in dealing with corporations in general will significantly improve.
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