Mowing customer won’t sign contract!

Many variables can effect the desire of a customer to have their lawn mowed. The economy, the weather, their attitude and yours. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we hear from one frustrated business owner trying to figure out why his customers are wanting their lawn mowed only on demand when they need it versus being on a schedule. What can he do about it he wonders? Why won’t customers sign contracts and would that even help? Other business owners offer advice.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I started this business when I got out of the military a few years back. The reason I started this business is because no one would hire me because I am a disable vet, or If I did get hired my doctor would call and let them know about my health and I would be terminated from my job. My doctor ultimately did get fired for his actions. I created this company so when people in my area get out of the military, they can come to me and I can give them some work until they can find a better job.

When I go on bids I always meet face to face with the potential customer. I get to know the customer and what they expect from my services. When I go to a bid, I expect the job will be a weekly or bi-weekly cut. They never want to sign contracts. I have never had a customer sign a mowing contract. When I mention a contract they get a scared look on their face and they say they don’t feel comfortable with contracts. A lot of people I mow for are elderly. They love my prices. I don’t do this job for the money. I do the job because I love to interact with people and take pride in my work. I don’t really need the money. I work a full time job at night, which leaves my days open. I do the job to get out of the house.

My lawn care jobs went from being weekly, to bi-weekly cuts, to ‘we will call you when we need our grass cut.’ I ask if they are happy with the services and they say they are. They even recommended me to their friends and families.

Then calls stopped coming In. No new customers. I have people call me everyday asking If I have any work and I have to tell them no. We have passed out fliers, business cards, posted ads on craigslist and in news papers, have went door to door.

I am wondering if anyone has had customer go from weekly cuts to we will call you when we need you.

Any recommendations on what I can do?”

A second lawn care business owner said “I would say they either can’t afford it or they think the grass isn’t tall enough. I have one that’s an ‘I will call when it needs it’ and she is my parent’s neighbor. I see her grass at least twice a week and it grows. She even goes out with hand shears to ‘cut the really high areas’ I said to her, ‘do you want me to cut it today?’ She says ‘I don’t get paid until x day and after that you can mow it.’ She also said cut it lower it grows fast. It’s the economy. Most think it’s not worth the cost when they can do it themselves.”

A third added “NOBODY would work for someone who said ‘Don’t come to work today, or tomorrow this week.’

What if that were the case though? So you aren’t ‘needed’ on Tuesday or Wednesday, but on Thursday when you go to work, you now have TWO DAYS worth of extra work to do and not only are you not being paid extra, you were SHORTED two days pay. How long would you put up with that crap? Yeah, that’s what I thought, yet somehow that’s EXACTLY what we are supposed to do when people say ‘just cut it next week.’

I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t use contracts. Then again, I haven’t been burned yet. Where I live there are PLENTY of people looking for lawn care, so you don’t need to kiss anyone’s butts - if they want to play games, they can find someone else, because I’m not dong this to be a nice guy… I have bills to pay just like they do. Weekly, or biweekly, those are your options. Don’t pay, and I won’t be back for another cut.”

A fourth shared “the service, and reasons you mention sound very genuine and admirable. There are two parts to my answer:

Contracts:
There are quite a few lawn service outfits around this area too, including a few franchise operations.

However, after an initial service, a good proportion of my customers want to become scheduled clients. Their commitment is to pre-pay a number of months of work in advance. Usually, we only accept up to six months payment in advance, especially from the elderly. We offer a written agreement for the client to endorse, but in most cases, a service schedule of what will be done and the approximate date (weather, etc, prohibiting service on the scheduled date) suffices. Act with honor and integrity on the first meeting for a quote and site inspection, and act the same way on the first service and they will be comfortable. Then, you must continue to act that way for the time the client chooses you.

If the initial quote tells them what you’ll be doing this time (mow + other services), and then mentions other services which should be included with additional mows, it shows the customer that you have a ‘vision’ for their property. If, in consultation with the lawn care customer, you prepare a plan of action to improve their property, then they are ever so pleased. Keep the plans for the future of the site simple - allow the client to choose grand designs if that is their desire.

If they would like something more detailed and more complex from you - something that will take time doing costings for plantings, etc - then that plan will be available at a price. There is a limit to cost-free assistance and it’s marketing value.

Phones stopped ringing:
What changed about your work, your marketing, your approach or the output? If there is a sudden change in client response rates,a variable has changed. Locate that variable and amend it.

Best of luck for prosperity - and good on you for helping other returned servicemen.”

A fifth entrepreneur said “We have everyone sign a ‘Service Agreement Form‘ (I quit using the word  contract 25 years ago, people shy away from that word). I explain that it is to their benefit to have a signed form so they know exactly what is to happen, how often and at what price. My insurance agent also likes these forms as now we know we have permission to be on the yard and it takes care of some of the liability issues. I carry a copy in my truck at all times in case a question comes up about what I am doing and therefore I can show that they signed up to have the work done.”

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

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