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DFW Area Landscaper
02-10-2006, 09:19 PM
I am running an ad in the paper that reads:

FREE weed control program for home owners in Lewisville, Flower Mound, Highland Village & Coppel in exchange for being a secret shopper. Only 30 spots available. Call for details.

Think anyone will call from this ad?

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

MJLsLawnCareNmoreLLC
02-10-2006, 09:36 PM
Then when they call, are you going to say the spots are filled? :p Just kidding.

I think you will probably get some sort of response. However the people you attract with the words "Free xxxxxxxxx" might not be the kinds of customers you are gonna want to have.

DFW Area Landscaper
02-10-2006, 09:42 PM
No, no. This is a legitmate offer. I am not trying to find customers. I need secret shoppers in the towns I operate to verify that they receive my door hangers when my crew leaders tell me they hit their street.

Also, the secret shoppers will be required to approach our crews when they see them out working and ask for a price to trim the shrubs or mow the lawn and report their findings.

In return, the secret shoppers will get three free chemical applications per year that will prevent their lawns from being over-run with weeds in the spring. The applications we make in November, January and March are our most profitable so I don't mind giving them away to a secret shopper.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

procut
02-10-2006, 09:52 PM
Very interesting idea, I'm guessing it will get a response.

DFW Area Landscaper
02-10-2006, 10:00 PM
I had a crew leader robbing me blind last year and I never even knew it. The SOB was actually offering the services of his brother to my clients at a lower rate. I have no idea if he stole a lot or a little but it certainly impacted my churn. When I found out about it, it did explain a lot of the mysterious cancellations I was getting.

Clearly, this is no way to run a business. I need some mechanism for spotting a thief and this is the best idea I can come up with.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

palawnman
02-10-2006, 10:12 PM
WOW, thats a pretty interesting idea. To be honest with you when I first read the thread I had aboslutely no clue where you were going with this idea. That being said, I think it definitely is a good idea. Good luck with it, let us know how it turns out.

Ron

Lawn Masters
02-10-2006, 10:15 PM
sounds like an interesting idea, might as well try it.

K.Carothers
02-10-2006, 10:16 PM
I had a crew leader robbing me blind last year and I never even knew it. The SOB was actually offering the services of his brother to my clients at a lower rate. I have no idea if he stole a lot or a little but it certainly impacted my churn. When I found out about it, it did explain a lot of the mysterious cancellations I was getting.

Clearly, this is no way to run a business. I need some mechanism for spotting a thief and this is the best idea I can come up with.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

I feel your pain DFW. I truly believe that employee's will try to get away with as much as they can(not all). I bet that he was also using your equipment to do extra jobs and slipping the cash into his pocket. You will never eliminate this problem but you can tighten up the odds. If you solve this problem 100% - you will be able to go on tour and be a consultant to all businesses and make some cash.

kc

DFW Area Landscaper
02-10-2006, 10:27 PM
Well, rather than pay for an ad in the paper, I think I will just distribute this word document to about 400 homes myself, spread out all over these towns.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

J Hisch
02-10-2006, 11:08 PM
Be careful what you wish for, you just might not have any employee's. I feel your pain and know where you are coming from. However all employee steal to some degree it cost employer millions each year. copy paper, pen, paper clips, petty cash etc. you may reduce your shrinkage some but what are you going to do if you catch them? Confront and then fire them? Do you feel they are stealing that much from you? We will record times on jobs start and finish I dont look them over everyday but when I do if I see something suspicious I ask them about it. I also follow behind them some time and show up on different jobs. Good Luck. I like the idea

K.Carothers
02-10-2006, 11:09 PM
I see where your coming from but I think that letter is not a positive image for your company. Your basically telling potential customers that you don't trust your workers, why should they?
How about paying someone you know to be your secret shopper. Maybe a senior citizen or family member?

Just my thoughts

kc

DFW Area Landscaper
02-10-2006, 11:56 PM
That is why I'm not putting the name of the company on the letter.

It looks unprofessional as anything, but I don't know what else to do.

As for the guy who asks what I will do if I catch them: I will let them go after I have a replacement lined up, which ought to be less than a week. Two weeks at the most.

Hopefully, they won't be doing anything stupid because I'm gonna make it clear to my guys that I have secret shoppers. I have zero tolerance for a failed secret shopper test. If they want to be in business for themselves, I will throw them into the real world with no notice and they can figure this business out on their own. I'm not gonna let them build a competing business while I subsidize it.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

JKOOPERS
02-11-2006, 03:07 AM
We don’t want phone calls from secret shoppers…we have enough calls from customers to handle already.

If interested, please call us at 972-365-8772. :dizzy:
:dizzy: :dizzy: whats up with that do you want them to call ya or not ? lol i get your point

PMLAWN
02-11-2006, 05:13 AM
.

Hopefully, they won't be doing anything stupid because I'm gonna make it clear to my guys that I have secret shoppers. I have zero tolerance for a failed secret shopper test. If they want to be in business for themselves, I will throw them into the real world with no notice and they can figure this business out on their own. I'm not gonna let them build a competing business while I subsidize it.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper
How will the employees take this?

Littleriver1
02-11-2006, 07:09 AM
With what you're going to spend, you may as well just hire some one new that has no contact with your employees. Send him out to do the check me out and report back. Even if your guys did find out. Would they be upset if they seen you out there checking on them? If your going to give your money away you may as well get something for it. Besides that, I would think you have at least one employee you trust enough to be in charge of this project.

indy2tall
02-11-2006, 08:18 AM
DFW, I like your idea a lot, many companies use secret shoppers effectively. But I would change your approach in this way. First of all I would not mention the part about these treatments being your most profitable. I would never want any of my current or potential future customers to know what my profit margins were, it might prompt them to try and bargain with me. Secondly I would present it as an attempt to improve what you feel are ALREADY the areas highest quality and most customer friendly lawn crews out there, not an attempt to police crews you don't trust. Last, as someone has already mentioned, if you want them to use e-mail then don't put your phone number in it at all.
Don't get me wrong DFW, I really like your idea and I think it will work, but you don't want to have all your honest workers getting the idea you don't trust or value them because of one bad apple.

DFW Area Landscaper
02-11-2006, 08:43 AM
Well guys, I appreciate the feed back.

As for this costing me money: My cost of goods sold on a chemical application in November & January is around $3.25 on a regular sized lawn. In March, it will run about $11. Plus, I will have to pay my workers to make the applications. The November & January applications will take my worker about .25 man-hours and the application in March should run about .4 man-hours.

So I am out $17.50 in materials & an hour of labor and I get a secret shopper out of the deal. I will take it.

As for destroying my company image by distributing a few of these: We distributed 62,000 door hangers last year (if my guys weren't lying to me). I figure I will need to distribute about 20 of these word documents to find a taker. In order to get 30 secret shoppers, I will need to distribute about 600 door hangers. There are about 60,000 marketable homes in the towns I service.

The reason I ask them to call to sign up instead of e-mail me is because people can recognize the name of my company in the e-mail address.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

OnMyOwn
02-11-2006, 08:57 AM
DFW,

Create a different email address that is non-specific to your company.

DFW Area Landscaper
02-11-2006, 09:06 AM
This is the kind of organization I have this year. I know exactly how many homes are on every street in town. If the crews come and say they delivered to a street where I have a secret shopper, I can verify it without leaving the house or even making a phone call.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

stimpy
02-11-2006, 10:07 AM
DFW. Make them sign a non compete contract for the areas you service.

Likestomow
02-11-2006, 01:16 PM
One of our best and wisest presidents once said, "Trust, but verify."

Not only will this benefit you from an information stand point, but I would bet that you convert some of these "freebies" into customers before the year is out.

mtdman
02-11-2006, 04:03 PM
Why not just do the estimates yourself and leave the middle man out of it? As I understand it, all you do is stay in the office all day anyway. I thought you had some kind of system for giving estimates without looking at the properties. I made it clear last year to my employees that they are not to give estimates or handle money of any kind, nor do they need to know about rates I charge. That all rests with me.

DFW Area Landscaper
02-13-2006, 11:32 PM
MTDMan,

I do the pricing myself if the prospect calls me for a price. The problem is, all too often, they walk over and ask my workers "How much do you charge?" Then they simply intercept the business.

This year I am not trusting anyone. I thought I could trust my last crew leader and he was stabbing me in the back all season. He was building his brother's business while I subsidized it with my advertising costs. Not only was that little spineless weasel stealing all my walk up business, he was actually offering to mow my clients for less money, which explains a lot of the "mystery" cancellations I kept getting all season.

Yup. If that **** starts happening again, they will find themselves "in business for themselves" with no advance warning. I have zero tolerance for that ****...ZERO. I am roped into this SBC dot com advertisement, I have paid my crew leaders all year to distribute door hangers, I have paid big bucks for professional signs on the trucks...advertising is a tremendous cost in this business. For a crew leader to steal customers and walk-ups from me...I have ZERO tolerance!

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

DuallyVette
02-13-2006, 11:55 PM
It sounds like your doing your laundry in public. Your making your employees appear dishonest to the public. I think it makes your company look bad.

HOOLIE
02-14-2006, 12:32 AM
I see your point with this and need to cut down on the 'side jobbing' that's going on, but, the way you present it just sounds bad. Maybe ask the secret shoppers to report back on whether the crew was courteous, working in a professional manner, etc. And say that all estimates are done by management, they could ask HOW to get an estimate and see what develops. Just make it so it doesn't seem so obvious you're trying to set up and bust your crew leaders.

And I'd let them call you with the results. Do you want the help or not? Don't place restrictions on them like only communicating via e-mail.

mastercare
02-14-2006, 10:46 AM
I agree with several others, that you don't want to get a bed reputation out there by showing the public you distrust your employees. I know you don't plan on using your company name, but if people take you up on the offer you are required to leave them pest. info on who did their weed control. I wouldn't expect any of those "freebies" to become customers after seeing your intentions, and I wouldn't want them telling their neighbors either.

Here's what I would do: Randomly pick a day here and there, and join one of your crews for the day. Figure out how long the jobs take, and start having your crews record start/finish times for each job. If you really want, install GPs trackers in your trucks and watch to see where they're at. You may catch them stopped at McDonald's, or spending an hour at a 30 minute job.

I would then sit down with your employees for a meeting and explain your rules: only I give estimates, no work is to be completed unless it goes through me, and etc, etc. Then tell them that if anybody is caught "stealing" their entire crew will be fired, regardless of who is responsible.

This means that on a 2 or 3 man crew, someone will have a concience and not let it happen.

I guess my point is that if you have an internal problem with honesty, you need to confront it internally. If that doesn't work.....get yourself a new crew!

Best of luck to you.

mtdman
02-14-2006, 12:46 PM
I'd eliminate the middle man then. Instead of paying the workers to distribute fliers, do your advertising by direct mail. With what you pay your workers per hour to distribute, I bet you can get them mailed for a similar price. Take into account the loss of revenue from the workers stealing business, and you'd probably save money. I agree that doing it this way is making a private business problem public. If word of that gets around, that you can't trust your workers, that could be bad for your company, imo.

Then you make sure you instruct your workers on your policies about firing people for stealing customers, and follow up on it.

flam41
02-14-2006, 10:25 PM
DFW, Do you opperate in Sache/wylie area, and or Little Elm? I got some friends there that would go for this. E mail me for best response Bluecollar41@yahoo.com
I dont come here a whole lot anymore.
Nick Burton

brucec32
02-15-2006, 02:50 AM
In business school management classes I recall the topic of employee theft being brought up. They showed studies that indicated that whenever employees felt undercompensated they were more likely to steal, since they felt justified.

This is a tough business for hiring and keeping good employees. It will only get worse. The fact is, a guy making $40,000 with good benefits is going to be less likely than a guy making $20,000 to $25,000 with poor benefits to pull something, becuase he has what he perceives as something to lose.

High paid employees aren't immune to it, either. At my wife's company a guy was stealing warehouses full of stuff through his relatively high level job. He's in a jail cell now.

It's not your fault, but the whole service industry's labor situation is broken. The idea of having contented, well paid, professional, happy employees with proven track records, who needed your reccomendation and a proven track record to get another job if you got rid of them, was tossed out a long time ago. Most of you may not be old enough to remember it, but when I was in my 20's you couldn't get a job unless you could account for every month you'd been out of school and provide references from them. they'd ring up your former bosses and see if you were trustworthy. They'd want to know why if they saw an employment gap of a year .

When I was a manager, I would spend hours talking to former employers before making a hire, even for a simple delivery driver job. Glad I did. One guy who was a great interview and was ready to be hired turned out to have beat up his former boss. I seriously doubt many get that level of scrutiny these days.

People with shady histories don't go apply at IBM. They go from one "easy hire" job to another. You're going to get a higher percentage of people who have been fired for similar shennanigans elsewhere.

Nowadays, I doubt some people even know the real names of their employees. Whatever is printed on the hastily forged green card seems sufficient.

JimLewis
02-16-2006, 12:52 AM
I had a crew leader robbing me blind last year and I never even knew it. The SOB was actually offering the services of his brother to my clients at a lower rate. I have no idea if he stole a lot or a little but it certainly impacted my churn. When I found out about it, it did explain a lot of the mysterious cancellations I was getting.

Clearly, this is no way to run a business. I need some mechanism for spotting a thief and this is the best idea I can come up with.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

I totally understand your frustration. I've had 2 different employees robbing me of business just like you described. Fortunately, the rest of my workers are honest and ratted them out. So they got fired on the spot, right after I caught them in the act.

But I think giving away 30 free services is a bit much. Why not just test your employees occassionally. It seems to me you could just go to the streets they are working on, at the end of the day, and see if flyers were on the doors or not. That's what I do. Just do it occasionally.

And then I also used to send out my friends as potential customers. I'd tell my friend the area where my guys were supposed to be, he'd drive over and find them. Then he'd pull up and say, "Hey! I just live over on the next block. I saw your flyer on my door, how much for ...... And do you have a business card or phone number? " Then the test was whether they tried to sell my friend on my company or THEIR secret company.

Seems cheaper than giving away a buttload of free service.

DFW Area Landscaper
02-16-2006, 08:49 AM
Jim,

Like I said, my cost of goods sold is basically nothing on these three apps.

After thinking it over, I have decided to spray these lawns myself on weekends. I don't want any of my workers knowing that we have any kind of relationship with these home owners.

The secret shoppers will be told that we are doing the weed control only. So none of these applications will have any urea. Basically, with me doing the labor myself, and leaving out all the fertilizer, each secret shopper will cost me about $10 per year.

If things go as planned, each one of my crews will be tested 15 times per year to see if they have a "secret" business. I will know if they are screwing me on the door hangers without ever leaving the house or making a phone call. I'm also telling my workers I have these secret shoppers and hopefully they won't think I'm bluffing and do bad things anyway. If they screw me, they're fired.

Last year, trying to drive neighborhoods to see if they were distributing the door hangers, I soon realized that it is very time consuming. Not only that, but if they are doing it on a Saturday when everyone is home, if you don't drive down that street within an hour or so, almost none of the door hangers are still on the doors.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

kingofbling
03-03-2006, 12:31 AM
DFW Area Landscaper, not to be racist or anything but are the workers you caught stealing your business Mexicans ?

I have had a few "handed" over business cards and "we could have done it cheaper" from hispanic workers that work working for the companies i had contracted.

For instance i had contracted a tree removal for a large tree, the cost was $900.00 with the company, the guy sent out two hispanics to take care of the tree, when they were done they asked me how much i had paid and i told them, they said they could have done it for $300 Cash on there spare time, they then handed me over a business card of there own.

Same thing happend when i paid $3,000 to have a fence installed around my property, hispanics did the work and then told me they would have charged less.

Not being racist here just asking, im half hispanic btw.

DFW Area Landscaper
03-03-2006, 08:57 AM
Kingofbling,

The guy who I know was stealing business was doing something very similar. He was hispanic. He would approach my existing clients and offer the services of his brother for less money.

If they are dumb enough to do that, I would assume that a new prospect walking up to the crew to inquire about prices would be intercepted from the very beginning. In this business, that stuff can cost you a lot of money.

I have enrolled five secret shoppers to this point and desperately need more. We delivered 200 offer letters to homes that had bad weeds last Sunday and found only 3 takers from all that effort.

I am certain most folks are throwing the letter away without reading it or if they do read some of it they quickly assume its a scam.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

lawnman_scott
03-03-2006, 09:16 AM
Maybe some people are wondering who does the work. My guess is it would be your employees. The theives, who apparently will steal anything from anyone, including their boss. Who would want these people on their property? Not me.

You have to look at it from their perspective.

TPnTX
03-03-2006, 09:47 AM
DFW, For some reason I thought you operated in the FW area. I'm from Carrollton. I don't live there anymore but thats where I grew up. I know tons of people in Carrollton, Farmers Branch, North Dallas, a few in Lewisville and Denton area.

I'm not sure how or what but if something comes to mind and you could use any spy customers I could point you to a few.

or

You could do sting ops. Have someone approach your crew and ask for info/services. Another would be to have a disguised as a customer inquire about lower rates, other services etc. I would be relentless and squash these creeps one way or another.

TP