Are there certain warning signs you look for when interacting with a new lawn care customer for the first time? If not, you probably haven’t been burnt by a customer yet. For those that have, they notice certain similar warning signs that they use to read if a lawn care customer is going to be a good mix with their company or not. Here is a great learning situation from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum on how one business owner got burned and what he decided to do to protect himself from getting burned in the future.
He wrote “I have been in the lawn business in the past for about 10 years. Back then I was doing yards for family friends and their neighbors. Nothing to big and I had about 20 lawn care customers. Well, this time around I have done good for my first year so far by landing 15 customers a week and growing everyday. But here is my problem and I need advice before I land anymore business.
I had my first failed relationship with a bi-weekly lawn care customer. The only reason I believe this problem happened is the guy was trying to stiff me out of services. He called me up one Saturday around noon and asked if I could mow his lawn. I did have a small window between 2 other customers and told him I would try. Before he hung up, he told me that he was interested in bi-weekly mowing and that he couldn’t pay me until the following week when he got paid. I told him that I would try and fit him in that day and that I would be in touch.
I called him later that day and rescheduled due to my first customer adding some services to her visit. I told him that since I missed that day that I would take off $5.00 for his first visit due to rescheduling. Not a problem, mowed his grass Monday and offered more services if needed and left. I emailed him today due to his phone not accepting calls. I told him that I had him schedule for Monday morning and that his total due would be $55.00 ($25.00 first cut ($5.00 off discount) then $30.00 for second cut)… I got a quick reply back that he didn’t agree with the charges and that he wanted to be mailed an invoice and that he would find someone more reliable.
Wait a minute, you told me that I did a great job and basically now I’m financing your first cut because you were broke and didn’t have any money. I’m ticked but I try my best with my customer service through email and try to get to the bottom of this. Remember he doesn’t have a phone, probably cause he didn’t pay that bill.
Anyways after bouncing emails he told me that I wasn’t reliable and that I ran over a sprinkler head, WHAT??? I do all of my own work and mostly mow high end homes. I know what I hit and don’t hit with all my equipment. I try to make arrangements with him to come out and make it right but all he wants is an invoice with the amount owed. I’m through playing games, and I am thowing this one in the bag as a lesson learned. It has been a BS day, and glad a new one starts in less than 2 hours.
Now to move on from this, I need to learn how to design a lawn service agreement without making a customer feel like they are under a contract. Anyone have ideas? All I want is it to list the services offered during a lawn visit, how often they want services performed, the $$$ amount they agree upon, and payment options. In my eyes this sounds like a contract but in reality this is the only way I can justify taking on any more new customers. I never had this problem before but this problem took my Saturday and threw it in the garbage.
I have talked to another lawn guy in the area, he told me what he does whenever he receives a new customer. The first time that he invoices them, he staples a letter to the invoice just stating how he sets his schedule, what to do if you need extra service done, how he schedules due to weather, and a simple area at the bottom that has your first estimate written on it.
His letter idea is what I’m now considering… But to be honest, I think that one bad customer experience out of 15 new customers isn’t too bad. I have learned my lesson through all of my negative happenings so far and I think in time I will be able to weed out the good people from the scammers without thinking twice about it. I think most people will agree when you start out in this competitive market, and someone calls and wants service then you try all you can to gain a customer.”
A second lawn care business owner shared “Bi-weekly was a warning sign. Then no money was an alarm. You offered to do the work knowing full well he didn’t have money. With any bi-weekly lawn care customer you should demand payment before work starts.
Do NOT ever do work for someone who has already stated they have a problem with paying for the service. Next time if they get paid next week schedule them for next week.
90% of the calls I get for bi-weekly lawn care simply want that because they have no money. It would cost me too much for the time it would take to keep a property like that looking top notch on a bi-weekly basis. That means they will only have you mowing so the place looks like hell. You don’t get work from dust bowls and in my area, if it’s bi-weekly, it’s a dust bowl. I have a few great bi-weekly’s but most from my experience have been pains in the ass and simply not worth it.”