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The Pleasures Of Dealing with Customers

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  • The Pleasures Of Dealing with Customers

    I just started my business this year, and have nothing but per cut customers. I have one client that called me last week and told me that her yard didn't need cutting because we haven't had much rain. Well I said okay, I'll be there next Monday. I got to her house today, and then again she told me it was brown and it didn't need it. Then she proceeded to bitch me out about how the old clippings were right up next the the sidewalk and it looked bad. I already do it cheaper than I should. It is about a 35 or 40 dollar job, and charging her 30 for mow, trim, blow, and biweekly edging. She has complained on more than just one separate occasion. I make sure that it is spotless every time I cut. I don't want to lose her business, but I feeling like I want to drop her. This is why I am considering next season to incorporate, not written contracts. But verbal agreements with monthly billing and biweekly and weekly mowing options (Along with a customer welcome letter stating information about my services and expectations from each party). Also does anyone think that if I am not doing contracts that maybe I should require first time customers to pay upfront rather than wait a month to get paid and not get paid? Has anyone had a bad experience with that? I want to run my company painless, efficient, and simple as possible.

  • #2
    I do wonder ultimately if having a contract or not, or verbal agreement or not will have any effect on unhappy customers.

    Will some go along with a contract because they signed it? Possibly but I am thinking more than likely they will still do what ever the heck they want.

    But all in all, having an initial agreement set up where everyone knows what to initially expect from the other is a good thing.

    If you can get prepaid on any work, that is fantastic and you should always go for that if given the opportunity.

    That's my view at least.

    What does everyone else think?
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    • #3
      Maybe I should clarify the prepay thing. When I posted I didn't mean prepay before the service but to have the customer pay for the first service once completed on the spot. Then once I know that there will be no issue with payment, then have them pay monthly. Does this sound like a good idea, or should I just have them sign the contract and hope they will pay me for the first month of service?


      • #4
        The best thing is to always get your money up front first. Prepaid.

        2nd best is to get paid immediately after the service is performed, only if it's YOU performing the service. You don't want employees collecting money.

        3rd best is billing the customer at the end of the month.
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        • #5
          In my experience, per-cut customers should pay at time of service. There is no monthly billing for per-cut customers. Also, their rates are higher since they often let their grass get out of control before 'letting you' cut their lawn.

          Don't let your customers push you around. Spending your time and gasoline to travel to her lawn only to have her tell you to come back later is nonsense. If she wants to cancel, she needs to give you due notice otherwise she needs to pay a minimum service fee.

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          • #6
            We all have customers that are a PITA, it kind of hurts when we do very good work yet they still take advantage, I have been fortunate and have only had two of the 213 jobs we have done so far this year.

            One was a rock wall, in short the client did everything including calling the city building inspector out, everyone said the wall was perfect, the building inspector called me and said that is one hell of a couple.....had my lawyer give them a call, had the cheque within the hour, lawyer is a very close friend but man I would not want to be on the other side of the fence from him, known for being ruthless.

            Next was an excavation job, I did some, staff did most, two week job, client who is a Jr. High Principal kept having the guys do little things that were not in the contract, I allowed a couple then went to meet with him, he pissed the wrong guy off when he told me look you have been here almost two weeks, if you won't include the extras then payment will be delayed, I said are you sure you want to go that route and he said yes....I called the chairman of the school board, long time friend, we finished the contract and the cheque was ready, nothing was ever said.

            For all others it's 50% up front and the balance on the day we say we are finished and the customer confirms wverything is finished, lawn care is invoices are emailed the night before the job, cheque is ready for the staff when they arrive or we have their credit card on file.

            My receivables is zip.

            Some people just like to complain, if you can afford it just walk or simply say "Sir/Madam, it may be time for us to go over your expectations, customer satisfaction is very important to me however you seem to have issues every time I am here, lets come to an agreement today to avoid this" then decide to keep or walk on the client.
            Halifax, Nova Scotia


            • #7

              You really have things together over there.

              I think a lot of times many of our members find themselves in a difficult stage of trying to grow and make everyone happy and then getting to the point where they realize they can't make EVERYONE happy and learn how to deal with such situations.

              When you reflect back, do you feel you implemented certain policies after dealing with certain problem customers and these new policies helped you grow?

              If so, could you give us some advice on that?
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              • #8
                I don't want to sound pompus as I am not, I am the type that will give the shirt off my back, if anyone tries to take advantage of me, company or staff, we have an issue and I do not fool around.

                When I bid a job, I go at it knowing we will get it, something I was tought many years ago at the bank, it's all mindset. Probably the greatest thing for my company is it went in debt free and was able to get the equipment, it has a couple of loans mainly to build credit but less than 10% of the capital assets.

                With this in mind and not having to draw a salary, I can weed out the potential clients that will be an issue and I do not let clients take advantage of us, as we all know some will and laugh behind your back, if I even sense a client may be this sort, I quote the job in such a way that we are too high or I will simply say, we would really like to be able to take this on however we do not have the manpower at this time, thank you for contacting us.

                Back in 81 I started with the bank and didn't really have a lot, back then we didn't make a lot and I had some pretty big debt from University and finishing flight school. On the side I would take on small home renovation jobs in Calgary, I would basically take whatever, clients would at times walk all over me as I was hungry and needed the money.

                Aside from a lot of hands on education dealing with people, the big difference between then and now is I am not hungry and if we don't get a job so be it, no sweat.....I often wonder if people can somehow sense this, we have some friggin amazing clients, many tip the guys which I allow, I went to a site yesterday and the owner had a table set up for the crew, it had ice tea, cookies fruit...I laughed in the truck, here is four guys cutting, chipping and splitting wood and this nice table set up in the driveway for them. This was a four day job and the owner gave each of the boys $25.00 each for their work last night when they finished. I love clients like this, not the money part but those that appreciate what we do, and when I see this we go beyond and what happens is they tell their friends and we get more work, for example I am sending a two person pressure washing crew to this ladies house at 8 this morning to do her driveway, it is something we never discussed, it's a small token of our appreciation.

                I have had many clients from hell over the years and it's tough, some days I didn't even want to go to work, we have to remember we are better than them, don't let them get to you, take the high road and hang your head high, sometimes they realize what jerks they are and change, not often but man walk away it's not worth the stress.
                Halifax, Nova Scotia


                • #9
                  I place a call to every customer a day or 2 in advance and let them know I will be there. This way they can have toys and what not out of my way. I have had a few tell me to skip that week but because I make these calls I wast no gas. Might be a good idea to do for new customer.
                  White Company


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