How to handle lawn care customers going through a rough time.

Life can deal us some great situations, mild one, and sometimes awful ones. Such situations can effect us all. But what should we do when a lawn care customer we don’t know personally starts to open up about a tragic situation in their life? How should we handle this? Do other business owners run into this too? Such was the question asked on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum and some very kind and thoughtful responses helped to put us all on the right track.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I have one customer who told me to give his friend a flyer. So I put a flyer in his mailbox and knocked on his door, no answer.

I called him not too long ago and he tells me he saw it but his mind wasn’t in the right spot, he threw it out. He goes on telling me about how is father is in the hospital and this guy sounded extremely hurt. His voice was so HURT and you could hear him crying. I felt friggen awful. I’m here trying to get hired and this guy is going through hell. He treated me with great respect and asked if I could drop off another flyer.

It’s situations like this, which make me stop dead in my tracks. I just don’t feel right. This poor guy, I can’t imagine what he’s going through. So I told him I will be on my way to deliver another flyer and before we hung-up I told him to, ‘Stay strong.’

I feel like Satan. I just wish there was something I could do, but anything I can do, will cost me money. These situations suck and make being a business owner pretty tough. You can’t help but appear selfish, regardless if you aren’t.

I don’t want this guys father to die, I don’t even think I could handle it, just by speaking to him over the phone my heart sank. Truly heartbreaking. I’m a complete stranger and he opened up to me over the phone. I’ll be up all night now. Frig. I just don’t know what to do.”

A second lawn care business owner said “I can totally understand that feeling. I had something similar with a lawn care customer a few months back. Without sounding cold, reality can be really crappy and this kind of stuff happens all the time.

The way I would look at it is, while you are looking to get hired, you are offering him a service that he probably doesn’t have time to do at the moment and it is one less thing this guy has to worry about. It frees up more time for him to spend with his father without the worry of what needs doing in the yard. Not every customer hires out because they want to, many hire because they don’t have the time or energy to deal with their yard. Your offering a service that helps get them through their week or month or year, whatever the case maybe. You might be just what they need at the moment.”

A third added “I had something similar happen to me last month too. One of my customers was diagnosed with lung cancer that has metastasized to the brain. He’s a retired, combat wounded veteran. A real tough guy that does not open up much.

So he calls me last month and ask if I am ‘in the area’ and can drop by to pick up the monthly check rather than him mailing it. I could tell he just wanted someone to talk to. I imagine he does not want to upset his family/wife any more upset than they already are.

I took two hours out of my schedule for the day and just went and spent some time with him. He started chemo and radiation, all of his hair is gone and he is going stir crazy sitting in the house. I think he just needed to talk to someone not in his inner circle.

So I go to mow his lawn the next time and he had some reaction to his medication and is unconscious on the floor. The ambulance pulls up while my rig is parked out front. I felt really bad, but glad I was there to help.

It’s hard watching him battle this and sometimes I don’t know what to say. I usually just let him do the talking. I think he really needs that right now.

If I were you, I would drop the flyer as promised and ask how he is doing. Ask how did things go with his father? If it is bad, he will probably open up to you again. Let him. If his father is dying tell him you are so sorry to hear that. If it is good news, then he might be ready to talk about business. You’ll know just by how the conversation goes. Odds are, it still is bad news since it’s only been a week and a half.

It will be a little awkward, but you just let him talk. Just open up with ‘How are you?’
Don’t say ‘I understand.’ Let him do the talking. Small talk is ok and there is nothing to be scared of. Just feel his pain and be thankful for the good things and healthy family you have.”

A fourth shared “I have to say this is one thing that I have had a lot of experience with my clients. They are all in there early 60’s all the way to 92 and counting. Everyone has had their ups and downs. Some with small problems like some body broke a hip and needed the extra help. The hardest one for me was when I’ve worked for a couple for so many years, then one of them passes away but you still have them to take care of. It’s really the toughest thing to have to deal with but what you have to remember the job you’re doing for them is helping them retain the normalcy of how thing should look and have always looked. There is nothing better than fresh flowers in the beds to make the day that much brighter.

You don’t have to lock him into a contract but can tell him you’re here if he needs a hand and if you end up with a client they’ll probably be the one that always offers you a beer even if it’s 10 in the morning.”

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