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Customer Situation

General Business Discussions

A place to talk about general business discussions.
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Old 03-27-2006, 08:57 PM
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What would you guys honestly do with this situation and this particular customer?

Ok, most of you know that I am only maintaining a hand full of lawn maintenance accounts until the end of 2007 (because of contract obligations to some), while others I plan on dropping hopefully before the end of 2006.

This one particular customer for the last 1 1/2 years has been a thorn in my side. *She has been a customer for approx 3 years, located right next door to two other accounts that I maintain.

I think that she has been going through a tight budget problem that I first noticed around May of last year. *Before in the past she has always had me do the full treatment; spraying beds, fertilizing the lawn, mowing the lawn, spring and fall cleanup, etc. *

Well, last May she would start to call me up and tell me that the "lawn doesn't need mowing this week" or that "she will buy the fertilizer and then I can apply it". *At first it really didn't bother me that bad, but then it got to the point of where her lawn was growing out of control and because of her tight budget she expected me to maintain the lawn for the same price. *There went one period where she called me three weeks in a row to tell me that the lawn didn't need mowing. *Even the neighbors were asking me how come I wasn't mowing the lawn because it was looking horrible.

Then last fall was kind of a big shock to me. *Normally I always did approx 3 clean ups on her lawn during the fall months, because it's easier for me to haul the leaves away in smaller quanities, compared to one huge clean up. *She also liked having the leaves removed regularly from her lawn. *
Well, last fall she told me, "Call me to check up on whether it needs a clean up before you come." *Well, I kept on bugging her about the clean up over and over again. *I kept on calling her every week and asking her are you ready for a clean up. *But she kept on saying no, even though I could see that it needed one badly because I maintained the neighbors.

Finally, like the week before Thanksgiving she tells me to go ahead with the clean up. *I am like ok. *But she asks me how much it would cost. *I told her around $250. *Well, she questioned why it was so much. *And I told her, normally you always have me come three times, in which the price is around $50 (only takes me about 30 mins each time), but since you waited until the last minute, and there are more leaves to deal with the price is higher. *Well, she told me that she would have to get back with me in regards to the price. *I said fine, but you better hurry before the snow comes.

So that entire week, she would call up and ask me if I could do it cheaper, and I said no. *Finally, it got to the point of where I felt bad for her, and we finally agreed on a $100 price, but spread over 4 months (So $25 each month). *It made me really mad, but I also felt bad for her situation. *I came cleaned it up, and billed her for 4 months this past winter. *

So this spring rolls around around, and I call her up last Monday in regards to a spring clean up and tell her that I plan on starting next week. *She said fine, but the neighbor boys are going to come over and pick up the sticks from the yard for you don't have to later this week (meaning around the 23rd, 24th, or 25th) *That kind of made me mad, because that is lost money for me, but oh well I forgot about it.

Fast forward to today:
I pull up to her place, ready to do her spring clean up yet I see a lot of sticks still in the lawn. *I knock on the door and tell her that I am here to do the clean up. *She said, that I couldn't do it because the neighbor boys have not picked up the sticks yet. *"Perhaps, check up later in the week", she said.

I am furious at this point. *I hop in my truck and take off. *Well, the more and more I stew about it, I am wondering whether to cut the cord from this customer and just let her go. *Anymore she is just becoming a headache. *What do you guys think?

* *
She is a very nice old lady, of where we can talk about political stuff on the phone for hours it seems like. *I get along with her greatly. But anymore I don't know about her. I feel bad if I cut her, but perhaps it would be the best remedy
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Old 03-27-2006, 09:09 PM
Billz Billz is offline
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Ask her outright if she is unhappy with the cleanups you perform, or what the problem is. If it is strictly a udget issue, then try to help her creat a plan which would help you both, and if she cant pay at all, I guess you would be able to decide then, for sure.
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Old 03-27-2006, 09:27 PM
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I think the budget issue for me is really not the big deal, it's the lack of communication and last minute planning on her part that really puts a knot in my schedule. The amount of time that I have to call her up every week and the amount of time that is wasted on driving over there to perform work that I can't do is nerve racking.

Right here is a perfect situation of why I hate the lawn maintenance field and I can't wait to get out of it totally.
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Old 03-27-2006, 09:35 PM
AMW Graphics
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This is one of many reasons i dont do this work any more.
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Old 03-27-2006, 10:13 PM
kc2006 kc2006 is offline
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I'd probably give her a call and straighten it out. No use getting mad about the situation and letting it go, confront her about it and fix or terminate the problem.

If you can put her on some kind of 12 month payment plan and tell her she's going to have to get the lawn cut every week or maybe bi-weekly because you can't be running around and catering to just her. If it still can't work with a payment plan...I guess you'd have to let her go, or if you feel generous do the work at a discount to fit her budget. 3 options to go with, it's up to you.
\"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run\"
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Old 03-27-2006, 10:53 PM
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I thought about the 12 month flat rate plan. I am thinking about either writing her a letter or calling her up. I usually write a letter for the customer can see everything spelled out right in front of them on paper
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Old 03-27-2006, 11:30 PM
Billz Billz is offline
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letters are nice, but I call first, then get it straightened out, and send a follow up letter. Letters seem to impersonal.
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Old 03-27-2006, 11:41 PM
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I will be honest with you, when it comes to raising the price on the customer or cutting them as a customer, the whole phone call thing I just don't care for, because the customer then tries to guilt you out or make you feel bad. Sometimes even yelling, screaming, etc. That way with a letter, I do not have to deal with the cr@p of listening to them go on.

I have even gotten to the point if a person wants an estimate done, and I go over and look at, and I know that i don't want to do it or the price is going to be high, without having to listen to them complain and moan that they can't find someone else or "why does that cost so much," I just tell them, "Ok, I will call you within a hour and let you know the price."
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Old 03-28-2006, 12:38 AM
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This is the letter that I am thinking about sending her. Now understand that her lawn is only 4,200 sq ft, that is why the price is low for the flat monthly rate plan.

I understand that over the past year you have and still are experiencing major budget concerns. *I have helped you in the past with skipping regular scheduled mowing and giving you discounts on certain services in which I depend on that income. *I have showed up many times to maintain your property, but have been turned away, which hurts my income greatly. *
I am faced with a very tough decision that I have been dreading to make for the last little while. *I too face a tough budget crunch and a very tight time schedule for customers. * To help with your situation I can only offer two solutions of where one choice has to be made before the season can continue:
Solution 1. *I can bill you on a flat montly rate plan of $98 per month for the remaining nine months of the year, that way you know exactly what the bill will be each month and you can budget for it. *That includes the spring clean up, lawn maintenance, and the fall clean ups. *Any additional services that will be needed during the season will be billed after the service is completed.
Solution 2. *Perhaps find a neighbor boy or even a lawn care service company that can provide the service to you at a cheaper price. *There will be no hurt feelings on my part if you do choose to go with a cheaper service provider and I hope that will can still maintain a great friendship.
I thought that I would write you this letter instead of phoning you, for you may have a reference of price and for you can decide what to do. *If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. *Thank you very much.

Troy Tiedeman
Tiedeman, LLC
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Old 03-28-2006, 01:19 AM
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Steve Steve is offline
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Hi Troy,

I think the letter is very nice.

This entire situation falls into the 10% of your customers will eat up 90% of your time theory. I think you have to weigh these situations out. If this is adding to your stress and you feel you could move on and find another customer or two who wouldn't be like this, then maybe just drop her.

So often we try to make everyone happy. "The customer is always right." But in order to actually do this, it takes an enormous amount of time and energy. Not to mention adding to our levels of stress.

What if instead we said to ourselves, 'we can't make everyone happy.' Then maybe we could realize this and cut our loses and move forwards to more profitable and less time intense customers.
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