Should you charge more for out of town customers?

Do you have customers who own properties in your area but live elsewhere? Do they require you to perform additional tasks local customers don’t need? Servicing out of town customers can be more challenging than servicing local customers. Here is a great story that came up on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. If you keep this in mind, you will be able to prevent potentially troubling situations.

A forum member asked “do you guys charge extra for out of town customers? If so how much? I have a customer that seemed to really take offense to me charging her more because she lives out of town and is bashing me on a public forum because I wanted to charge her an extra $10. I explained it is for the inconvenience of having to wait so long to get paid and for the extra time it is going to take for me to email her before and after photos of her lawn to prove I was there. She is now trying to soil my name on a forum that I have been advertising on for years.

How should I be handling this?”

One lawn care business owner responded and said “your question raises a number of interesting points for discussion. First off, this is a prime example of why I suggest not giving a price until you know as much as possible about the business relationship you are entering. There are often questions on this forum about guys advertising prices on their flyers. If you advertise an upfront price, it is difficult to adjust the price upward after you learn more about the situation (like having additional hassle because they are out-of-town).

Secondly, looking at it from the customer’s viewpoint, she may be irked because she feels penalized (like a late fee) for having to mail you the check. If she were to make payment prior to your work would that be a solution? Maybe present to her the situation where you will complete the work only after the check clears. Or, she can paypal the money and you will do the work as soon as the paypal money hits your account.

Honestly, I bet she is agitated at feeling like she’s being charged a late fee. I bet you can discover a reasonable solution by being diplomatic with her. She might turn into one of your best customers and give you great word-of-mouth advertising.”

A second lawn care business owner felt differently and said “with the potential customer complaining even before you get started is just a bad omen. Also, you don’t know if she has already gotten dropped by others in the past because of her bad behavior and they won’t touch her now.”

A third business owner shared “I’ll be honest man, she sounds like trouble so steer clear.

I agree that such out of the area customers should pay in advance. My per cut clients pay at time of service or are invoiced net 15 after the service is done. My monthly clients are invoiced in the middle of each month & due on the 1st for the month to follow. I explain to monthly customers, if you pay per service & I miss you this week, big deal we’ll catch up next week or whatever. If you are monthly I cannot bill after the fact & here’s why.

When I started I had several customers stick it to me. They signed up in the spring, I cut the lawn 4 times on month #1. Sent an invoice net 30, mowed 4 more times in month #2 & now the payment for month 1 should be coming in right? But it wasn’t here yet? So I figured well they are just a little late. I mowed it for another week or 2 before realizing this jerk is never going to pay! Now I am over-extended 10 weeks service. NO MORE!!! So monthly customers pay in advance. I am here, I’ve lived in this town for 20 years. Everybody knows me or my family (well… a lot of em’ do) If I were to not show up they can track me down easy.

If they skip out it’s too hard to track them down. If the client has problems with this…. ask them for references, a driver’s license #, & the names & numbers of 2 closest relatives…. If they want credit?…. Fill out an application!

As far as waiting for checks for the per cuts, That’s part of the pain of this business! That’s the way it goes. Count on it, there will be a pay lag. I have 3 different property management companies I maintain vacant rentals for. The lag from them ranges from 2 weeks with one company, to about 120 days with another. Now that is a little extreme, but they told me there was a paper work lag time right from the beginning of our working relationship & they pay a premium for that. But in my opinion, a week or two wouldn’t be enough for me to charge extra for. If you paid your employees every 2 weeks, should they get more because they had to wait for the money? Everybody wait’s for their money. My accounts recievable is over $10 grand right now & will be next month, the month after, & the month after that. You do work, send invoices, and the money (eventually) is coming in as steady as the out going invoices all-be-it with a lag time.”

All of these issues have got to be taken into consideration when you are working with lawn customers. Small problems can become a lot larger with a lack of communication and a lack of communication can easily occur with a customer who lives out of the area. Keep a heads up about all of this. Ask questions first and then formulate your bid price. If you want to charge more to out of town residents, good for you, but it may not be a good idea to share that tidbit with the customer. If you want to charge them more, simply charge them more. No one but you needs to know why.

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