View Full Version : How To Provide Good Customer Service To This Situation

12-10-2009, 11:03 AM
I have a customer, I know he is not a cheapskate - his lawn is $30 to mow a week and we also fert/squirt aerate/overseed his lawn. He hired us to mow his mothers house weekly and add it to his bill which is $50 a mow.

We charge $12 to show up then $60/man hr from the time truck hits park to the truck his back in drive.

In November we only did 2 leaf removals at his mothers, and mowed and trimmed on both times. The first removal I spent 3 hours by myself and charged $120 for the work and $22 to haul a whole long bed truck of leaves that were mulched down very fine and then bagged. 3 weeks later we visited and charged $95 for mow and leaf removal 1.5 hour of work. Total for leaves and mowings for that one property of November was $239.

He called the day after he got the bill and said I think you put someone else's leaf charge on my account because I don't have any leaves here - meaning his own house -- I told him it was for his mothers property. He said, I thought I signed up for mowing, trimming and the lawn care treatments at my house and just the mowing at my mothers? I told him the first removal was a pretty heavy leaf removal and as long as we have been in business all customers want us to pick up the leaves as long as we charge reasonably, so we tell all new customers in the fall leaves are extra and we just go ahead and do them, if they wish not to have this then please write, call or email us. I told him I was on the road and will call him when I get back to the office to try and work something out with him.

Im frustrated but at the same time can understand because this time of year people budget very well because of christmas and he probably didn't expect to have a leaf removal invoice come in.

What's your opinion of how I should settle up with him? I plan to call him back and say Mr. XXXXXX I apologize I should have called you when we got to your mother's house to let you know there are a lot of leaves and it's going to be a rough estimate of $XXX.00 is it okay for us to go ahead and do it? I'm just aggravated because I would really understand his shock if we mowed it each week on top of $150 for extra leaf work, on average his mother's bill he pays each month during regular growing season is $250... and the leaves have to be picked up and we charged $239 for 2 mowings, a lot of leaves, and hauling them and disposing.

But I don't want to loose especially after I gave him a 30% break on the leaf work already but I do see where I was wrong and assumed to go ahead and do the leaves - never had any problems or questions with any other customers -- usually people thank me for going ahead and taking care of the leaves and that it saved them time from having to call and schedule a removal.

I'm thinking at minimum negotiate with him for $100 as the base for the 2 visits for mowings but.... ughhh still loosing $139 plus giving him a $80 break....??????????????

12-10-2009, 11:13 AM
It seems as though you already know your mistake and what you need to do/say to resolve it. You cannot make assumptions... apologize and move on.

starry night
12-10-2009, 12:09 PM
Ask the customer. "Sir, I made a mistake by .................of course, your business means alot to me. What can we do to resolve the situation?" Leave it up to him.

12-10-2009, 12:15 PM
You shouldn't have done additional work that requires more money period. What if u went to get a carwash and instead of 20.00 they charged u 100.00 for a deluxe package bcz everybody does at this time of year.
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12-10-2009, 12:35 PM
I would have to agree that one can not simply take on large jobs, or jobs involving
much over 5 or 10 dollars without first gaining the customer's approval.

12-10-2009, 02:10 PM
Apologize to the customer for not talking with him about the leaf removal first. It sounds like you already know you made a mistake and realize that you have to right the situation some how. I would try and reason with the customer, at least see if he would be willing to pay part of the leaf bill. I would tell him that since you made a mistake, you would like to cut his bill in half. That way you could at least get some money for your work.

12-10-2009, 02:29 PM
If I were the customer, and I got a cleanup bill for a job that I did not ask for, review, or approve, I would not pay. Some of my competitors do what you did, then argue all day about how the customer owes them the money. I just don't get it, but I guess a lot of customers just pay the bill.

However, you gave him a very fair price for the work.

Florida Gardener
12-10-2009, 02:55 PM
I think you need to take a hit on this and not charge. You didn't gain approval for a sizeable amount of additional work and if I were him, I wouldn't want to pay for work that I didn't agree to. Chuck it up as a lesson and move on. If this guy is a good customer and you right this with him, he will remember it and more than likely give you additional work in the future and may even pay you for the whole thing once you tell him to forget about it. That is my .02

12-10-2009, 03:26 PM
It sucks, I know. All the moreso when you do the work yourself. But you really didn't have a "meeting of the minds" on this and especially when doing bigger jobs (comparetively) you need to get it in writing (even on a quote form that isn't a contract) so everyone is sure they're on the same page.

I have a customer I do nearly $1000/month worth of work for and even then on one of his properties I asked if he wanted the shrubs done before I did them, offhandedly, assuming he would. Turns out he didn't, as it was a place he only managed, didn't own. So even $50 or so is worth asking first on unless you really do have a "do what you think and send me the bill" arrangement with someone you trust.

Funny thing is, I've had just TWO situations like this I can remember over the years. And both of them, coincidentially, balked at paying a whopping SEVEN DOLLARS extra for leaf cleanup time in excess of the time spent to mow on a visit. I canned both of the knuckleheads, as they were already getting a steal. And MY policy on leaf cleanup had been explictly on their quote. They just didn't bother to read it. Now I send a LETTER each fall to new customers telling them how I do it, and if they want they can opt out and I will just mow through any leaves and ignore the rest. Nobody has ever opted out except one lady with a total POS lawn who pays well otherwise. People just don't like surprises.

12-10-2009, 08:06 PM
I always try and see what program the customer wants to be on when I start. I try and make it very clear that leaves are by the hour too. I would reason with him and let him know you made an honest mistake but remind him you did to a fairly extensive job and see if you could at least get half the payment to cover your costs. If he still argues well then just take the loss and keep the customer. If you do anything extra for him tack on an extra 5 or 10 bucks where you can for a while to make up for it. I have had customers that will pitch a fit about what I charge them for one thing but will pay anything you want to charge on another. I just try to treat them fair and if I know I got ripped on one thing I will make it up on another and I keep the customer happy at the same time.

Big C
12-10-2009, 09:33 PM
Turn this negative into a positive....tell him you made a mistake and do not charge him for it....if you try and charge him for the additional services he may pay, but you will most likely loose 2 customers in the process....if you don't charge him you will have gained 2 customers and in the next few months you will recoup the money lost....JMO

12-10-2009, 10:36 PM
You could give him that discount you talked about, and maybe throw in a few free edgings/hedge clippings/mowings, etc. to make him feel a little better.

Or you could just apologize and give it all to him for free (probably winning two long term customers)

12-11-2009, 01:04 AM
Some great answers already from others. Great to see we have so many 'professional' people out there. Exactly how I would handle the situation. He knows he needed the leaves removed, and cutting without removing them would have been a real mess. Asking him what is fair sounds like a great answer, and he will likely pay you if he isn't tring to take advantage of the situation. Hard to take a hit, but you will sleep better and sounds like you have a good customer. Not worth losing a good customer over this.

12-11-2009, 01:13 PM
I posted earlier but I think after thinking about it more that Big C is right. Offer it to him free and maybe....just maybe he may even offer to pay some anyways. If nothing else you have kept your customer and like I said before make it up over the course of the year with a extra 5 or 10 here or there on other small services. You will eventually break even and you have to remember it usually cost a fair amount to pick up more lawns.

12-11-2009, 01:59 PM
I like the suggestions offered. I would apologize and say forget about the bill. If he is a stand up fellow, he will come back with lets work something out. Ask him to pay what he thinks is fair. If he insists on you setting the negotiated price. Answer this way. "Well, I would really like to get enough to cover the dump fees and the money I paid for my workers labor", but I'm OK with whatever you can afford". Stand back and watch the checkbook come out! Sometimes when you start off with "I made a mistake" the customer will really bend over backwards to make things better for you.
good luck

12-11-2009, 11:09 PM
I would offer to wave the fee. If he is that important of a customer, I am sure you will make your money back, and he will be that more loyal. Either that or offer for him to only pay 80 or below.

12-11-2009, 11:10 PM
Service recovery paradox is something I learned about in my services marketing class this past semester. If something goes wrong (like this), but you go overboard taking care of it (like doing it for free and maybe offering something else), the customer is even happier than if nothing went wrong.

Don't charge for the cleanups. Think about the long-term value of the customer. $240 is not that much if the lifetime value is several thousand. Who knows, he may even appreciate your services so much that he'll give you a gift card or something for Christmas.

12-11-2009, 11:33 PM
if the guy is a regular customer monthly mowing etc etc. as he seems to be, then me personally i would just call him up and discuss what you normally do on your properties as standard andlet him know you were just doing that out of routine and that youll waive the bill (forget about it)this guy is giving you 2 mowing accounts and someclean up in the fall and possibly some other business here and there. me personally i wouldnt want to loose a customer over $100 or even $200. vs how much total a year is he spending with you? if its a one time deal *meaning he doesnt fuss alot over the bills) then just foget about the money. if he becomes a problem thinking he can constantly get over on you then youll have to put a stop to it. think of it this way........ customer Mr.XXXX has some friends over and they comment on his lawn "gee george it sure looks like youve worked hard in the yard this weke it looks great. well not exactly i use CCCCC. landscapes(you) and he does do a great job and is a stand up good guy so good in fact he just did $200 of work for free at my mothers home since ive been a longer term customer." " well george i want his # im gonna check him out and cancel my svc and use your guy....." OR you get the complete oposite..... " man your lawn looks great " "yeah i got cccc/landcapes doing it. he does a great job job but im really not satisfied with him. who does your lawn im thinking of swapping next year." i know ive rambled but moral of the story is $200 could go along way in a positive or negative light..... like i mentioned b4 i would just forget about it...(since it seems he may not have been informed completely of how you normally operate things and bill for specific svc's, maybe you didnt tell him maybe he didnt understand ive had to do it before i hated having to swallow it esp this time of year (esp more so now in this economy) with kids and wife at home but in the long run i feel it will be beter off that way it shows alot of respect and trust for the customer and shows then that you do care and will stand behind your work..

let us know how it turns out.

12-11-2009, 11:58 PM
Just need to apologize and take a loss on that visit. Gain back the money long term through him or referals.

12-12-2009, 10:18 AM
change your leaf clean up policy and you won't have this happen again. NEVER assume the customer wants something extra done. ALWAYS ask them first. If they want it, then give them a price. As for what to do about it, I really couldn't tell you as I wouldn't put myself in this situation.

12-12-2009, 07:32 PM
I have to agree with most of the others here. It sucks because it was probably a fairly safe assumption. But in this case, it turned out it wasn't safe to assume.

As a rule of thumb - if it involves an extra charge - I never assume anything. Both parties should be totally clear on what services are going to be performed and what the costs will be. That's just good business.

And $60 per hour for maintenance??? Wow! Must be nice.