Help! I am having a communication breakdown with my customer.

When you have a communication breakdown with a customer, things can disintegrate fast. What was once a good interaction can quickly slide into being a terrible one. After you have been through a few of these situations, you start getting a feel for when situations are starting to take a turn for the worse. When you do and if you can catch them in time, you have a good chance at saving that customer. If you don’t catch it in time, you may find yourself in a situation like this, wondering what to do.

A business owner wrote us on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum to get advice on how to deal with a customer relationship that soured. He wrote “in my lawn care contracts it says customer can exit contract with a 30day notice, however I have one customer who still hasn’t paid me my Feb payment and now it is March. This will make 2 months they will owe me for. They have been with me for 10 months until today when I saw another crew on the yard picking up trash and what not.

That lawn care company must have under cut my price because I had to beat a $90 a month plan to get them to sign in the first place! I don’t know how to handle this. I am really mad. Should I take and spend the $80 and see if I can get the $165 they owe me and sit there in court for 8 hours? Or should I just forget it?”

One lawn care business owner said “send them a certified letter stating you owe me $X and have 1 week to pay from the receipt of the letter or you will be filing with the local court for petty claims on XX/XX/XX and note that they will owe you the cost for court as well as what they owe you plus a 10% late charge or whatever your late charge is. 9 out of 10 times they will pay.

Now if you did not have them sign a contract prior to doing any service for them, then I’d cut your losses and move on. Otherwise it’s their word against yours. I don’t care if it’s a commercial or residential customer. To me, they are a client regardless of who they are. You need to get it all in writing. In your general service agreement make sure to put a late charge. mine says this.

‘Payments not received within a five (5) day period after completion of service are subject to a late fee of $10.00 and will interrupt recurring services.’

In such a situation, the customer would owe me $80.00+$10.00(late fee)+$20(court filing fee = $110.”

A second lawn care business owner shared “the first thing I would do is call them and ask if there is a problem with the invoice. Is their a problem with the service? Remind them you haven’t been paid and when you dropped by there was another company performing services to their yard. Remind them you have a 30 day notice in your agreement.

Based on the feedback it will tell you what to do. You can file a mechanics lien against the property, not sure what it costs their but for $80.00 it would not be worth my time.”

A third business owner said “It just sounds like a communication break down.

  • First did they sign anything?
  • Second, were they unhappy with their contract? You were mowing for them for 10 months. I am surprised they didn’t say anything to you. Were they unhappy with the mowing?

Did they give any notice that they were moving to another company?

I guess I am always surprised when I hear stories like this because I try to keep in good contact and connection with the home owners. I try to make sure that they are happy with their services and that there isn’t anything unspoken. It is when things are unspoken that it becomes uneasy like with what you are dealing with now.”

Keep these thoughts in mind when dealing with your customers. The less you communicate the more chances will arise for conflict to exist. Address any issues early before they become problems. Don’t let customers go two months without paying you without asking what is going on. Find the problem, find a solution and move forwards.

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