7 questions to ask your office plant service vendor

At The Wright Gardner, we are huge fans of asking good questions. We recently brainstormed and prioritized the questions we felt that every client should ask before entering into a service relationship with us or anyone else. We hope these prove useful in avoiding a nightmare service experience with an ill-equipped vendor!

How do I get a hold of someone?
Many service providers do not have dedicated support or a phone or email channel that will get you service quickly. We’d recommend getting a hold of the phone number and email address used for existing customers and trying them out before you sign.

How do you track the plants, service visits, and oversee service quality?
There are many lean and mean service providers out there delivering horticultural services. Many of them, however, either don’t have or don’t follow procedures for checking quality, don’t keep complete service records, and don’t keep track of the material for which they are responsible. The best service providers will have robust systems in place for performing quality audits, digitally tracking their service visits, and maintaining the inventory of what they service (and charge for!).

What is your average technician compensation? What benefits do your technicians receive? Are they employees or independent contractors?
As a responsible corporate citizen, the onus is on you to ensure you do business with vendors whose employment practices are fair and just. Employees should be getting a living wage, paid time off, paid holidays, and health care. Perhaps it goes without saying, but you probably don’t want to hire a service provider whose “staff” are all very low paid independent contractors or hourly workers without any paid benefits.

Do you have other clients nearby?
As the customer, you really want your service companies to have a routine presence in your area. Those that only visit your area once every 1-2 weeks will have a very hard time delivering a high service level when you need it most, no matter how good of a client you are to them. You may also want a peak at who some of the other clients are. A reputable client list is generally a solid indicator of vendor quality, as more reputable clients likely wouldn’t tolerate a low performing vendor.

What do you guarantee? How does that work?
Most providers will say they guarantee their work, but often that is simply a marketing statement and they will hide when it comes time to actually redeem the guarantee.

What insurance do you carry?
All service providers entering your corporate environment should be independently insured with policies for workers comp, general liability, auto (if they are driving onto your premises), and umbrella liability. Industry standard insurance for horticultural work is at least $2M aggregate general liability and $1M in workers compensation. Upon your request, they should be to quickly produce a certificate of insurance sent from their provider showing a current policy that is in effect.

Can I see purchase and lease/rental pricing?
Some service providers will only offer one option for purchasing or leasing. Those that don’t offer leasing might be struggling with cash flow, and you may not want a provider that can’t manage their own finances. Providers that only offer leases might be hiding huge margins. Getting both leasing and purchase prices will provide you with some good insight.