View Full Version : When to drop a customer?

05-20-2008, 10:20 PM

I started my business late last year I got 2 customers 1 moved and the other one decided to contract with me this year. I got an additional 13 customers all of which are happy with my mowing. My first customer however is unhappy with me using my Scag and would like me to use my self propelled mower instead( as I did last year). I know this kills my productivity because I have to cut his lawn with a 21 inch mower. He thinks the larger mower is pressing down his lawn and he won't let me use it. I really need the customer but other grasscutters have told me they wouldn't do a lawn for someone under these condtions. I am hoping to get more customers on his street and in the area but I didn't get any so far this year. Should I cut his lawn by hand until I get big enough that I won't need him or do I keep him hoping to grow the area?

05-20-2008, 10:39 PM
I have run into this problem more than once and I have handled it a few different ways.

1) *Explain to the customer that your scag has turf-tread tires designed specifically for residential types lawns.

2) *Tell your customer that you will be more than happy to mow his lawn in a different pattern each week to reduce damage to the grass and avoid soil compaction in specific areas.

3) *Cost/Benefit Analysis: *What is your effective per minute rate when doing this customer with your 21" self-propelled lawn mower? *Are you willing to work for this rate or is it out of the question?

4) *If you are not willing to work for that rate, ask the cutomer to pay more to make it worth your time.

If none of these methods work, you may have to drop him.

It sounds like your lawn care business (http://www.StartALawnCareBusiness.com) is expanding nicely.

Good luck:


05-20-2008, 10:43 PM
Hi Tom,

This is a very good question and I do look forwards to hearing others view point on this.

I think when you get started doing anything, you tend to do more than you might do later in business. When you start getting an idea of how much you need to do to get the job done without going overboard. Yet you don't want to under do things and let your service slack.

As we have seen in certain discussions on this site, some lawn care business owners get rid of a certain % of their customers each year that are a pain in order to make way for better customers that take less time to care for.

What's my view on this? Well, if you can still use this customer as a beachhead to gain more traction in the area, then do it as long as it is helpful in that regard and then let them go.

If they are annoying you now and holding you back, then get rid of them and find others to replace them with.

This is your business and you should be feeling good about running it and the working with the customers you care for. Certain customers will be right for you and certain customers won't. As you grow, you will find the ideal customer type for you and search out more of them.

What's your view on this?

05-20-2008, 11:15 PM
....if I asked you to mow my front lawn with a push mower, and you refused, I'd find someone who would do it my way not the "mow-blow-and-go" way. Does his house look like mine or is it a trailer?


05-21-2008, 11:14 AM
Hi Eric,

That is a very nice house!

Do you think he should charge more for using a push mower if it takes more time or how should he go about handling this situation?

05-21-2008, 12:02 PM
In some other posts in the past I've mentioned I keep contemplating buying a walk behindto service customer with smaller gates.... I went back & forth over this & ultimately decided not too. the little walk behinds take too much time & energy to use and aren't worth it for me financially.
I figured if it takes twice as long, than I could do 2 other accounts in that time, then the fact that I will be more tired after walking a lawn so I'll move slower for the rest of the day thus costing me even more time. Customers aren't willing to pay more that twice the amount just because you need a small less efficent machine. But that's what it would take to get me to do it and break even to what I could do otherwise.

I turned down a customer this week for the same reason. I told her to find a new company that was starving for work & was only using small mowers because they are just starting out so they won't increase the charge for it. I advised her to try to find a service that is licensed & insured though. She asked if I knew of any? and I told her no I did not due to the fact that most established, Licensed, & insured operators have been in the business a while & figured out that it is much more efficeint to run a larger machine. I said I'm sure they're out there but I don' know of any off hand.

It's just not worth it to me. I figured better to just turn it down & move on to the next estimate.

05-21-2008, 07:57 PM
...times have sure changed. What do you charge per hour to do a lawn? Does it matter to the top line which mower you use? I'll bet it matters to the bottom line since the ROI on a push mower can be counted in months rather than years.

05-21-2008, 11:18 PM
Quote[/b] ]I figured if it takes twice as long, than I could do 2 other accounts in that time, then the fact that I will be more tired after walking a lawn so I'll move slower for the rest of the day thus costing me even more time. Customers aren't willing to pay more that twice the amount just because you need a small less efficent machine. But that's what it would take to get me to do it and break even to what I could do otherwise.


Did you quote her a higher price and then did she turn it down or did you just tell her flat out, you wouldn't do it?

I am wondering if the customer would pay more for a 'manicured job', if I can use that expression like that.


When you were running your lawn care business, would you turn down such jobs? Would you change your estimate price if you were using a push mower when you could use a faster mower?

Maybe this is a bad direction to go?

05-22-2008, 01:31 AM
I was doing high end houses with small front yards. I had two Toro 21" two cycle mowers that were not self propelled and one 44" walk behind on the residential mowing trailer. The owners specifically asked that the fronts be cut with push mowers. OK, no problem. I used a three man crew, the foreman used the 44" walk behind in the back while the pushers did the front. Those were my best and highest paying customers. All it took was a couple part timer students willing to learn, hustle and push.

The guys set a record on one lawn in 19 minutes 21 seconds including weedeating and blowing from the time the truck was put in park till drive. The largest yard was about an hour. Three of them were neighbors so the truck didn't move on those yards.

Almost every customer always asked me NOT to use riding mowers on their lawns. They had various excuses, but I think the unmentioned reason was they didn't want to pay someone to park his butt in a seat and race around the lawn. Most of my customers had their own riding mowers from 38" up to 48" decks. My pushers & walk behind could smoke 'em in speed and quality.

05-22-2008, 11:46 AM

Did you ever have a policy of reviewing your customer base each year and weeding out customers that you found weren't as profitable or that caused you too many problems?

05-22-2008, 12:04 PM
Usually the customers weeded themselves out since they always shop price and competition was great. Anyone with a vehicle and push mower is your enemy. Homeowner associations and commercial accounts always go out for bids, and there's always somebody who knows somebody who can do it cheaper. I can usually tell from the attitude and body language right from the start if this will be a long term contract. The ones who jump at the month to month offer rather than annual are a forewarning.

Every one of my contracts had an 'at-will' clause that protected us and the customer. Meaning either one of the parties can cancel the contract for no reason. All our terms were explained in detail up front. Doing things this way actually calmed down the pricing negotiations because the customers had the feeling of an escape clause up front.

05-22-2008, 12:17 PM
Oh very interesting!

Quite often we will see lawn care business owners on here who look to land condo or home owner associations. Do you feel it is better to steer clear of such jobs?

05-22-2008, 04:11 PM
....the best way to land those is work thru the contractor while they are being built. This is how to become the defacto incumbent when the property is turned over to the homeowners. You can also go thru the property management companies but seldom can unseat the current contractor. I lost a townhouse development after the homeowners took over and went out to bid. My crew was replaced by an old man on a 10 year old rider.

05-22-2008, 06:26 PM
That is a very good lesson to be learned!

We have talked in the past on the forum that some business owners feel that that 10% of your customers will take up 90% of your time. Do you feel this is the case? Is it worthwhile getting rid of those 10% and finding others that won't be so problematic?

05-22-2008, 07:25 PM
I never thought they were problems while I was getting paid by the hour. This is a prime example of how to grow your revenues. Hire someone to do those customers while you grow your business.

05-23-2008, 08:10 PM
I appreciate you sharing with us your insight in this. I do feel there are things that some businesses do, which propel them to a higher level than the vast majority of other businesses could ever reach.

This sounds like it could be one of them.

05-24-2008, 03:28 AM
i do a 36 unit strata condo complex and the reason i get called back is because of the ability to be flexable and do the extra things that the others dont. Like ill do the walk about to check the sprinklers once in a wile and leave a note on the next invoice that the irrigation has been checked. For a fee of cource but the costomer has the reliefe of knowing that the sprinklers are good. Just stuff that they dont think of that you can take care of for them.

05-24-2008, 10:28 AM
We do a lot of strata and condo complexes and I find they're often my best customers. Since it's usually a representative from the strata board or a resident who is working on behalf of the management company, they don't really care about price etc. The cheques always come in on time and they usually tend to not care a whole lot, since it's not their own personal property. That allows me to be more flexible with scheduling.

05-24-2008, 11:42 AM
What is a strata?

05-24-2008, 11:17 PM

Thanks for all the feedback about my problem customer. Here is what I figured I would do.
First off he is a good paying customer always on time.
Second he only has me cut his front yard. His back yard is very small.
Also this is an area which I would like to try to get more customers. So I figured since I only have 15 customers I would put him as my last stop. Keep him this year and see how many more I get next year. Then next year I will raise my price and I'll see if he stays around. I know if I had 150 customers my attitude would be different, right now I have to make due with what I have. Yeah his lawn slows me down but I need the revenue and I cannot hope I get something else to replace him for right now.

Mears Mowing
05-25-2008, 09:30 PM
Tell That customer if you change your lines it won't matter. If it was me i would keep mowing with your scag. if he doesn't like it them that you can no longer mow. If you have the time to do, most big companies don't, then keep mowing it. you need to keep you customers happy but at the same time you have to make money. Try to pick up other lawns on that street. Tell them right off that bat that you will be mowing with this commercial. they might not like it at first, but change your lines and they'll get used to it.

Any Know what i should do.
I have several customers that don't allow me to cut weekly. their yards get out of control and i have to triple cut them. I have told them that my price is only for a weekly cut. I have leanred that i should tell customers right off of the bat that i only mow weekly. What should i do with my old customers that want to be cut on an as need basis?

05-25-2008, 10:53 PM
Quote[/b] (Team Gopher @ May 22 2008,12:18)]Chuck,

Did you quote her a higher price and then did she turn it down or did you just tell her flat out, you wouldn't do it?

I am wondering if the customer would pay more for a 'manicured job', if I can use that expression like that.
I just turned it away Steve,
I'm picking up 3-4 new clients a week. I know I would hate servicing that lawn with a 21" machine and I don't think I'm going to buy 36" hydro stat w/sulky anytime real soon because I don't get many customers with the small gates. It's entirley too hot here. So rather than get it, hate it & drop it when the client has left the state & now has to find somebody new via phone I decided just to steer clear & not offer any estimate at all.

I think my next machine maybe smaller but probably a 48" ZT not a walk behind. So they sa find your niche.... that's just not mine, I'll leave it to somebody else.

All Aspects Landscaping
05-26-2008, 08:22 AM
any sign of trouble with customers, we drop them... simple as that. there is so much business out there, that you shouldnt stress about that one a-hole!! we know within the first 4 weeks if we will keep a customer. If not, we politely tell them that we are not the company for them and they do not fit in our target market. We are a weekly only service! All this fall in lines with our company policies. (I stress to all of you to develop these now an put them in use...no exceptions).

***Sorry if any of this doesnt make sense, im down a finger and on oxycodine.

05-27-2008, 11:26 AM
Quote[/b] ]any sign of trouble with customers, we drop them

I have always found that once a customer starts complaining, the complaints are rarely service based.

Customers will often try to make you quit instead of admitting they can't afford to pay or they have found someone "cheaper."

I agree with James. Unless a complaint is specifically resolvable and the customer is happy with the resolution, I am quick to let the whiners go. There is too much other business to waste time and mental energy on them.