View Full Version : Clients and Contracts
01-06-2002, 03:36 PM
I have a few clients who must not understand their contracts. My basic contract call for a spring clean-up, weekly maintenace April-November and a fall clean-up. We clean beds only during the 2 clean-ups unless requested by clients, and in the fall, we charge by the manhour for leaf removal. Most clients are still weekly, but a few go to 2 weeks.
Client #1 sends me a letter "Since when does a $XX.XX mowing become a $YY.YY mowing w/ leaf removal, or even a $ZZ.ZZ leaf removal only charge?" Actually this is the jist of the 2 page letter from the client. I wrote them back, including a copy of signed contract hi-lighting the leaf charges, etc. Let her know she asked all beds to be cleaned out both times and that we spent a lot more time and effort cleaning up the leaves rather than just mowing. I guess there is no way to just tell them to @@@@-off.
Client #2 comes home last week as we're finishing his clean-up. Says that his town had finished clooecting leaves DEC. 15 (which was too early), so he and his wife had done a "clean-up" prior to that. Now it wasn't a large clean-up as 3 of us were there for only 1 1/4 hours and of course had vacuumed leaves into truck. We did fill approx 2 1/2 16'X20' tarps (Z won't fit through 38" gate). Now he will get his bill w/ a letter that if he did his clean-up, that he should have either called me, or cancelled contract for year.
I still have at least 40 clean-ups left and 40 more that may go until spring at clients preference. I just don't know if these people are stupid, ignorant, or both. The majority of my clients are really appreciative of our service and professionalism. Maybe its just me, but I keep track of complaints and compliments in the clients file in my software program. If the client becomes a real pain in the a$$, I send them a cancellation via certified mail. This does not happen that often.
The above client #1 will not receive a renewal this year, and #2 will only get one if services are paid in full w/ no note of dissatisfaction. If his place looked reasonable clean to me, I would have just let it go until spring instead of doing it last week.
Thanks for letting me vent!
01-06-2002, 04:05 PM
Lot of cleaning up to do I see.In a couple of diff. areas!
01-06-2002, 04:46 PM
80% in the US are stupid or ignorant. IMHO
01-06-2002, 07:46 PM
I use contracts on 90% of my customers, only had two problems this year. I dumped one who was always a slow payer, with a horrible piece of property, she only wanted it cut every other week. When I canceled her she had the nerve to say I was letting the lawn get too long! The other lady said her grandson was going to take over after we did the leaf clean up, along with about a half acre of pine straw that was 6 inches deep.He was ready to take over after the tough stuff was done.I'm sure she'll call in July when it gets hot and say her grandson is thinking about goin' back to school.
two of my favorite sayings:
"You can't fix stupid" and "Never argue with an idiot"
called a customer that is a little behind on his payment. For the 4 time he asked me how much it would be to remove his bushes in front of his house and when can i get to it. For the 4th time I have told him $250. And asked where my check was for the previous work, then i will do the bushes. Does he really think that I will do more work for him when he still owes me $170.
Then another family that owes me money wants me to go do their parents leaves. I'll get right on it.
I had one lady ask why it was more money to do leaves, but when i had called her about it, she had witnessed the extra work we did and said disregard her note.
plan for contracts and 12 month payment plan for 2003.
01-06-2002, 10:29 PM
I love this Judge Judy line:
"Beauty fades, stupid is forever."
01-06-2002, 11:21 PM
Turfdude, it sounds to me like your contract would be like my pay-per-cut. Why don't you take all your cuts for the year, add on the spring and fall clean-ups, then divide it by 9 or 12 months. This way the customer can do a better job of budgeting, and you have a more consistent cash flow.
Alot of people are strapped for money this time of year, and this might be at the root of some of your complaints. If people have a consistent and reliable bill coming in every month, then billing questions are one less thing they can complain about.
There's nothing worse than doing a quality job for someone, they are very happy with your work, and then they get an unexpected bill. Money issues will kill that relationship faster than anything, and the quality of your work suddenly doesn't weigh in as much. It's easy to blame the customer when they call about a bill, but when I get that kind of call it means that I failed somehow in communicating with them. Why don't you take a look at your contract and see if you can't make it more communicative and see where the shortcomings are. Just my 2 cents...
01-07-2002, 06:52 AM
Originally posted by Turfdude
I just don't know if these people are stupid, ignorant, or both.
They're not so stupid, they just think that you are.
fshrdan may be on track about it being a communication problem. But it seems some customers just live to give you grief.
I like your idea of tracking complainers. Do you keep them informed of their status? I was thinking of something on their bill like "customer satisfaction index" But really it would be your evaluation of them!
01-07-2002, 08:57 AM
Thank you guys for your feedback.
Sometimes it just feels good to vent. We service about 225 accounts this way so its always less than 5% that actually complain. I do go over the contracts w/ the client the first year and do ask them as to their preference for leaf removal (weekly or biweekly, etc). I also inform them that we usually do the cleaning of the beds w/ the last visit (some still aren't done) as it takes awhile to clean them thoroughly (even w/ 6 6200's and 7000's). We don't really offer an equal payment plan as many accounts receive mulching, pruning, annual program and fertilization program too and we only have a 4-6 week "slow period".
We do have some of our application clients submit a pre-pay for this service. Then the only other bill they'd receive would be for an authorized optional grub or fungus treatment.
01-09-2002, 04:59 AM
I will only add that we handle this a bit different. All of our 150 clients are year-round. But only about half of them are full-service customers. That is, we do more than just lawn mowing (including leaf raking and clean-ups).
I just figure out how much work we're going to have to do in the winter. I can look at the size of the trees, etc. in their lot and pretty much figure out how many leaves there will be, etc. Then I just give them a flat, monthly rate. They pay the same monthly rate all year. Then, there is no arguing the bill, ever. They know they'll be paying $X per month all year. I make it very clear when they sign up and I follow up with a letter.
Then, this removes any misunderstanding on their part regarding any monthly bills they get. And as long as I get on-time payments, the only concer is MY performance, which is how I like it. As long as we perform, things go smoothly.
Now I don't know your situation. This may not work everywhere. But it works well here. Just thought I'd mention it.
LAWNS AND MOWER
01-09-2002, 04:13 PM
I know I'll get hammered by ya'll and probably called a scrub but here it goes. I've been in business for 15 years and have yet to use a contract. Everything is on a handshake. Most of my new accts are word of mouth so I can trust them and they trust me. I've only been stiffed twice for about $100 each and both of those ex-clients died within a year. Made a claim on there estate and got my dough. Granted, certain parts of the country may dictate that you need contracts, but where I live, peole trust each other and handshakes go a long way. Whatever works!!!!!!
LAWNS AND MOWER
PS I strongly suggest the 12 month payment plan mentioned earlier. It's nice to be getting checks when there's a foot of snow on the ground!!!!!
01-09-2002, 10:31 PM
Teachers are by far the thickest when it come to the cycle of life explanation. I don't know how I ended up with so many but I got more than my fair share. The ones that teach younger childeren are the worst. I have one up the street,she hears me speak but dosen't listen to a word. I have found that as prices climb, I have a lot more problems. I am switching to contracts this year for lawn service. They want me to bend an inch, next thing they want to give me two inches. I may lose a few when I get done explaining my idea of "degree of difficulty" deffenition. It takes all kinds to make the world go round.
01-09-2002, 10:52 PM
Lawns and Mower,
I wouldn't hammer you at all. In fact, I am right there with you. Although from what I read here, we are in the minority. But I have 150 year-round residential accounts and I've never done a contract with any of them. We lose a few from time to time for normal reasons (divorce, death, job loss, etc.) but a high majority of our clients stay with us all year without me making them sign a contract.
I always tell people that our good service and reliability will warrant their continued patronage. And so far, in 6 years, that's proven to be very true. People are happy with the service we provide and the rates we charge. So they stay with us - plain and simple.
Besides, contracts really aren't all that enforceable anyway. There are a ton of legitimate reasons to get out of them. And to be legal (at least in my state) you have to give the customer a 30 day opt-out clause any way. Otherwise the courts throw your contract out because the terms weren't reasonable. So what's the point?
The only good thing about contracts is that there is a certain mental impact. That is, most people THINK their bound legally so they act as if they are.
Then again, if you do year contracts, that's just a message to your customers that every year, when their contract expires, they should maybe shop around before being "locked in" for another year. With my customers, they never feel the urge to shop around. They are happy and have no reason to.
01-09-2002, 10:54 PM
It just goes to show you can not please all the people all the time.
Even on here, you have many differances of opinion.
Choose what you wish and stick with it.
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