How would you handle this fall cleanup situation?

Have you ever run into a situation where you have already provided a fall yard cleanup only to have that same customer call you back a week later asking when you are going to be there to pick up the rest of the leaves? That is what is going on in this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. Except there is a little twist to it. This entrepreneur had advertised free fall cleanups in the beginning of the year to help gain more customers. Now in the fall, it seems this might have become a little more than he had bargained for.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I performed a fall cleanup for a client, she was home while I did it. She invited me inside of her home when I was done and gave me a check for snow removal too.

A week later, I had just finished storing my mowing equipment for the season when she called me and said ‘when are you coming to do the fall cleanup?’

I said, ‘I had already done it.’

She said, ‘no, you did the front, not the back.’

I responded, ‘I had done the back.’

She said, ‘you knew the leaves in the back would fall later on, and that you would come back to do it.’

I said, ‘I had already stored my equipment.’

The conversation went on, I continued to explain to her how she received a fall cleanup already and that there is nothing I could do. She kept trying to end the conversation with, ‘you have to come. OK!’ The last thing I said, ‘I will see what I can do with the time I have’, just to get off the damn phone.

A little back story. This year I threw in free leaf cleanups to obtain more clients, but before I could change my mind I was swamped with work. I have enough clients now, and the promotion will not be available next year. One would think that a client would be more picky about what he/she has to pay for, than something they get for free… not in my case!

As for the clients argument, I have no idea what to do right now. Any suggestions? The more the better! I’m going to begin charging for fall cleanups next year. This way I’m not going out of my way, stirring up my clients with high expectations.

I thought I would still have time this year to go around getting new clients for fall, but I was booked with all the free ones. Anyway, it was worth a shot and something to try in order to learn the consequences.

Doing free work wasn’t as discouraging as I had thought, but it certainly was aggravating. I had some properties that if a client were willing to pay, I wouldn’t even touch - but they had to get done this time.

In short, offering freebie deals for your customer isn’t beneficial to you, even if the plan is to have all the local homeowners hire you at once, in hopes to retain them for later seasons once you raise your prices.

As I grow my business more and more, I will always still understand the importance of being reliable, but no longer will I allow my customers to use it against me for work which has not been paid for, or work that I had already completed.

Many would go out of their way for their clients, but I think I’ve run out of fuse. There is no ‘real’ return for going the extra mile in my case, so it’s time to cut back. If I go out of my way for a client, usually the client will become someone I dread.”

A second lawn care business owner said “I had this problem once about 3 years ago and it made me re-evaluate when I do my fall clean-ups for certain customers…If you do a clean-up in early November, odds are, yes, more leaves will either fall or will be clown by wind/storms onto the property…this is a fact of life. Some customers can handle that, other can’t as in your situation. Your customer obviously wanted a clean lawn going into winter and you have to respect that.

The lesson to learn is that maybe in the future, this customer gets a late clean-up in late November versus early November so that all the leaves are off the trees….you do it once, make it look great, and you’re done. I don’t know how long it took you to do the clean up in the first place, but my opinion is you need to go back and do it FREE of charge and just deal with it. A happy customer is profitable for you regardless of the pain in the a** it is for you to get your equipment back out. It shows your loyalty and that you’ll stick by your word which WILL pay dividends in the long run. If you notice this customer start doing the same things during the winter with snow removal than I would respectfully lose her as a client because it is not someone you want to work for in the first place.”

A third added “I have one rule that covers it also. If you offer something as pricy as a fall cleanup for free then you should go back and make it right. You also might think about putting a disclaimer with your advertising or being pro-active. We run into this during cleanups where we tell the customer it is an ongoing process and give them the option of how many fall visits they want. Pro-active vs. re-active always works to your advantage!!!!

I got a call from a referral last night for a cleanup. My equipment is winterized as well, but I love money so much guess where I am going today for $40.00 per man hour plus equipment costs. When you advertise, watch your wording and don’t forget any disclaimers!!!”

Read more about Lawn Care Business Bidding Tips, Upsells, And Disasters To Avoid. Learn how to improve your bidding process with this book and be prepared before hand by knowing what you should be looking out for before a problem occurs.

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