PDA

View Full Version : Leaves: Customer vs Landscaper Discussion


Darryl G
10-19-2012, 04:05 PM
I just thought I'd open up a discussion regarding dealing with customers and their wants, needs and perceptions regarding leaf cleanup vs the way we as lawn care/landscaping professionals see it. I'm not having any particular problem at this point, but it's always an ongoing battle every season for me to get customers to understand that I can't let every leaf fall off every tree on every property I service before mobilizing for cleanups.

Case in point: I knew we had some wet weather coming so I ran around this week servicing properties...mowing and cleaning up any leaves that were down already and dropping their cutting height down 1/4 to 1/2 inch. On some of my properties with maples and birches and white pines, there are quite a few leaves down already. The oaks are still not dropping much. The way I see it is that I got their yards cleaned up and the grass cut before the leaves got all wet and matted in long grass. I did the getting while the getting was good so to speak. The way most customers see it is that I wasted their money, because with the rain and wind we're getting now, you can hardly tell I was there. Customers seem to see leaf cleanup as an event, whereas I see it as a process that is repeated, going around to each of my properties until either they're all cleaned up or winter sets in.

I'm to the point where I have my customers "trained" relating to how I do my cleanups, but I still get them asking me to come back next week when there are more leaves down. Mind you, the grass is still growing at a pretty good rate on my nice lawns, and they need cutting anyway. On the crappy, unfertilized lawns it's no so much of an issue. So far I have just done what I've wanted...I haven't had any customers insist that I not service their lawn, but I just know that the owners of the yards I did yesterday are saying to themselves that it was a wasted effort to do their lawns right before they get dumped on again.

Thoughts?

Blades Lawn Maintenance
10-19-2012, 04:30 PM
Well Ive never had to deal with fall cleanup so I'd like to see what some will say

unit28
10-19-2012, 04:34 PM
I've stayed in direct contact with everyone, and kept repetitive schedules
with clean ups.

I've only had one non compliant customer this season.
This particular customer has never had an issue except this year. I did offer a good bi weekly rate, but they have put me off. When I give them the final offer I'm sure they'll scream about it. Communication is key. But in regards to what the weather will do
always expect the worst. I've had wind blown and sometimes dramatic leaf drop happen before I'm done on all of the lawns. If I've passed through that area of the lawn and leaves start coming down where I just cleaned, I may or may not re-clean it before I load up and take off until next week. Since I'm running this on pre-set schedules, the customer always knows what to expect. Keeping a repetitive schedule equals affordable pricing.

Leaves fall according to photosynthesis, species type and weather.
And what's worse,..... is neighbors with trees to.
I'm not eating a few hundred bucks on leaves from non compliant customers.

Darryl G
10-19-2012, 05:56 PM
I don't really discuss things much with my regular customers. They know the deal already. I just show up and bill them. I have one that does some of it herself, but otherwise I do the cleanups on all of my mowing accounts. The only reason I called one of them was because she was behind on payment and she was up for a service on my schedule. The funny thing is that after we talked she called back to say not to come, but I was already out on my route. It wasn't until after I was already in progress that I found out she had called, but when she saw how many leaves I was blowing out of the grass she understood.

orangemower
10-19-2012, 06:12 PM
I have quite a few leaf clean ups each season. Some don't really need a actual clean up once the grass stops growing. One particular property DUMPS leaves to the point I can't mulch them after like the third week of doing them. I have to start bagging. Last year I had piles of leaf dust laying everywhere after the third week mulching. It took 3 more clean up visits that took about 3-4hrs each time to finish up for the season at one of them. Over 60 trees on a 1 acre lot! Last fall they had a company come in and remove 8 large trees so this season might not be AS bad though I already started mulching leaves. It's been 9 days and he called today to let me know they need mulched again. :)

C Jovingo Landscaping
10-19-2012, 06:16 PM
I let new clients know that clean up in stages is cheaper than 1 big clean up. I tell them that if I wait & do 1 big, the leaves will be thick & wet, making it hard to use blowers to move them. More raking + tarp dragging = more time, more money.
Posted via Mobile Device

rviviano23
10-19-2012, 06:26 PM
hey guy green hornet landscaping here. what i do is charge alittle bit more on top of the cut every week I'm there. that way it covers me for the extra time spent, then do a final cleanup. i always send out a memo to all clients letting them know what is going on. i tell them $5,10,15,or $20 would be added according to the amount of leaves that fall from week to week. usually not a problem. why should i clean and cut every week for the same price and then have the client tell me they don't need a cleanup because you did a nice job keeping up from week to week. that's B S that has worked for me for 20 yrs. later. east northport ny long island

Darryl G
10-19-2012, 09:23 PM
I also add a little bit to their mowing price if necessary until it's full-blown cleanup time. On some properties I can save enough time elsewhere to not have to charge them extra at first, such as doing an abbreviated trim. I don't usually do a lot of mulching of leaves....I'll take it as far as a double cut and if that isn't going to do it I'll just bag it rather than running it over forever. Pretty much I mulch when leaves are at the nuisance level but once they're blanketing the lawn I bag them. On a lot of my properties I can just blow the heavy accumulations to the woods and then just bag it. A lot of my properties are in the woods, literally just a clearing in the woods.

LawnScapers of Dayton
10-19-2012, 11:28 PM
As of Oct 1 I switch to biweekly visit to all my regulars....mowing and cleanups. Trimming is reduced to a minimum...... So far we are mulching, bagging etc. This week we will most likely move in to blowing and using the vac trailer heavily.... Although many on this weeks route have curbside municipal pickup. I have 1 employee with me and we are typically able to do 12-15 clean ups per day. I dump the 16 cu yard vac trailer at a local organic farm for free....

Darryl G
10-19-2012, 11:48 PM
So do you bring you mowers out with you on another rig when you're using the dump trailer? That's similar to the setup I had one year but working solo it was a lot of work to get all the leaves to my trailer and suck them up. I seem to do better running my Lazer in my dump trailer, grinding and bagging them. It's not like sucking them up isn't work. You have to either handle the nozzle or lay it down and rake to it. It just seemed I was more worn out doing it that way and didn't make any faster progress. Granted there are some properties where it's more efficient, but overall I didn't like it. If I had a dump truck rather than dump trailer that might be different.

Groomer
10-20-2012, 10:35 AM
you have to remember too that each year is a little different. I'm seing a greatly reduced leaf volume this season due to the extreme drought, I think, not to mention the decimation from the ash borer. I have whole stands of ash trees that are leafless and dead. On one property alone I counted 23 dead ash trees, no cleanup there! I haven't tarped anything yet, but will next week. I get it to the curb and another local landscape guy swings by with his vac crew. So glad I don't have to fool with pickup and disposal anymore.

Darryl G
10-20-2012, 10:46 AM
I guess the point of my original post was to point out that there is a difference between how we see things and how the customer sees them. Most of them think that a one-time cleanup is the way to go, not understanding that by the time that would occur the lawn would have been smothered for weeks, the grass will be long and the leaves will be thick, wet and matted. Not to mention that if you have multiple properties to service, there is just not enough time to get all the cleanups done at that point before winter sets in without having to call in the National Guard for help.

LawnScapers of Dayton
10-20-2012, 11:06 AM
We take both trucks.....one pulling the dump one....pulling the enclosed with mowers and blowers......

I just sold my flatbed dump and bought another pickup. I had the vac mounted on the dumptruck plowmount and a 16yd box on the dump pulling the mowers and blowers..... It was a great fall set up......but the dumptruck was not good for the rest of the year because it was a 454 gas hog.....and with hiring 2 employees this year I had to make a change......running around town in the 454 was very expensive......

So for the fall I have to take both trucks....not a huge problem. I need the vac system for my curbside pickup service....

larryinalabama
10-20-2012, 11:13 AM
Most of my customers want the yard kept clean even if the grass isnt growing. Ill do leaves until Christmas then the business gets real slow.

MOW ED
10-20-2012, 11:37 AM
Darryl I am with you on the way you do the cleans. As a matter of fact your original post here sounded just like what I did this Wednesday. Our method of clean is different but our philosophy with the customer is exactly the same.
My customers don't question either. I tell them I work until Thanksgiving (that historically has been the day for me over 17 years) so I will stop by to either cut or clean or both depending on the property. I do have some leaf clean only customers and they just get the clean when needed. I don't cut their lawn just do the clean.
They don't have a problem of when or how I do the job, it just gets done and I bill accordingly. Our billing philosophy is a little different as I do track time on each property and then bill additionally at the end of the season for a "Fall Clean" showing dates of service on the invoice but only a total for the customer.
I do have one long time customer who is an older lady and it appears that she wants every leaf off all day long. She would probably pay me to be there 7 days a week. I will not take advantage of this lady as she is very nice and I enjoy working there so I sometimes show up and do a quick clean of about 20 minutes twice a week. I could spend hours there. She understands that it takes time for all the trees ( and there are huge maples that wait until late november to dump) to let go and I do my best to keep her place up.
Otherwise I just plug away according to the hand mother nature deals. I have been sitting for 4 days now with no work because of rain. I hope next week gets better.

Smallaxe
10-20-2012, 12:17 PM
One aspect of the job that doesn't seem to get much airplay and that is suffocation... I typically cleanup after a rain so that allows a greater time period before the next rain causes leaves to suffocate the grass and perhaps,,,actually cause death...

I've started my second round of cleanup since it has been over 2 weeks ago that I started... before that , suffocation wasn't an issue becuz it was so dry... also the dryness created dust and the subsequent removal of topsoil...

LCOs need to prevent people from killing their turf by allowing wet leaves stick to,,, and suffocate,,, the grass...

Darryl G
10-20-2012, 12:36 PM
Smallaxe - I totally agree. A common thing I see when homeowners do their own leaves is a very clumpy growth habit to their lawn. What happens is leaves settle and stick to any bare spots, suffocating the lawn there and increasing the size of the bare spots. This perpetuates the cycle. Couple that with the grass getting long and laying over and choking itself out and you can destroy a nice lawn in no time.

Trying to renovate this kind of lawn can also be difficult because a slit seeder doesn't get into the hollows very well, so you almost need to topdress the whole lawn. I had a lawn like this that I renovated only to have it return to it's clumpy growth habit. The customer was doing the mowing and cleanups themself. It was only after making multiple follow-up visits did I realize they were letting the leaves sit for extended periods and mowing high with a mulching mower, which never stood the grass up.

THIESSENS TLC
10-20-2012, 10:19 PM
I let new clients know that clean up in stages is cheaper than 1 big clean up. I tell them that if I wait & do 1 big, the leaves will be thick & wet, making it hard to use blowers to move them. More raking + tarp dragging = more time, more money.
Posted via Mobile Device

I decided to try the leaf cleanup this year. one of my customers wants to wait until they are all down....and i pretty much told them the exact same thing, but they insist i wait. More money for me! As long as we advise them on what is best for them then i guess we've done our job and can only give them what they ask for after that! my other customers understand except for the one.

THIESSENS TLC
10-20-2012, 10:25 PM
One aspect of the job that doesn't seem to get much airplay and that is suffocation... I typically cleanup after a rain so that allows a greater time period before the next rain causes leaves to suffocate the grass and perhaps,,,actually cause death...

I've started my second round of cleanup since it has been over 2 weeks ago that I started... before that , suffocation wasn't an issue becuz it was so dry... also the dryness created dust and the subsequent removal of topsoil...

LCOs need to prevent people from killing their turf by allowing wet leaves stick to,,, and suffocate,,, the grass...

just read your post, makes perfect sense. maybe i'll have to have a talk with one of my customers.

jrs.landscaping
10-25-2012, 08:23 PM
We do two rounds of cleanups. We do one in the fall to keep most of the leaves off the lawn, we are done around Thanksgiving as well. Then we blow out the beds, and clean all the leaves in the spring. We tell customers not to panic, we'll be back in the Spring to take care of the leaves that are still on the trees. One property we do still had leaves in Feb. That would have been a long cold wait for the leaves to come off those trees.

RSK Property Maintenance
10-25-2012, 10:27 PM
I just thought I'd open up a discussion regarding dealing with customers and their wants, needs and perceptions regarding leaf cleanup vs the way we as lawn care/landscaping professionals see it. I'm not having any particular problem at this point, but it's always an ongoing battle every season for me to get customers to understand that I can't let every leaf fall off every tree on every property I service before mobilizing for cleanups.

Case in point: I knew we had some wet weather coming so I ran around this week servicing properties...mowing and cleaning up any leaves that were down already and dropping their cutting height down 1/4 to 1/2 inch. On some of my properties with maples and birches and white pines, there are quite a few leaves down already. The oaks are still not dropping much. The way I see it is that I got their yards cleaned up and the grass cut before the leaves got all wet and matted in long grass. I did the getting while the getting was good so to speak. The way most customers see it is that I wasted their money, because with the rain and wind we're getting now, you can hardly tell I was there. Customers seem to see leaf cleanup as an event, whereas I see it as a process that is repeated, going around to each of my properties until either they're all cleaned up or winter sets in.

I'm to the point where I have my customers "trained" relating to how I do my cleanups, but I still get them asking me to come back next week when there are more leaves down. Mind you, the grass is still growing at a pretty good rate on my nice lawns, and they need cutting anyway. On the crappy, unfertilized lawns it's no so much of an issue. So far I have just done what I've wanted...I haven't had any customers insist that I not service their lawn, but I just know that the owners of the yards I did yesterday are saying to themselves that it was a wasted effort to do their lawns right before they get dumped on again.

Thoughts?

I like your way of doing clean ups. In my previous years I had no bagger system, so I would just cut my lawns like usual until they didn't need cutting and then when all the leaves were down, I would do a fall clean up. Now I stay on top of the leaves and the lawns stay cleaner and all my customers are on the same page so far, also i'm not sure 15 dollars is enough to bag some of my lawns, especially when the leaves are thick and i'm dumping the bags 3 times for some lawns. I wouldn't think you would have any issues with customers in you area, I'm in old lyme and old saybrook 2-3 times a week in the summer. Next year that won't be the case as i'm going to send out flyers every few months to different towns to really increase sales.

Darryl G
10-25-2012, 11:21 PM
It's more than $15 at this point. I go to hourly billing after October 15th. I got 4 lawns done today and that was busting my tail double-timing it. Granted I'm not known for early starts, lol.

Yeah, keeping up on the leaves works best for me. I actually had a customer thank me today even though I'd been there 10 days ago and by tomorrow you probably won't be able to tell I was there...oaks were raining down pretty fast.

I have some accounts in Old Saybrook, not very good ones though. They're profitable and all, just all crappy bi-weekly lawns. I lost 4 of my Old Saybrook accounts this season. Two sold and the other two were for the same guy, his business and his house. I lost them because I didn't want his commercial plowing account....didn't want to deal with hundreds of feet of Main Street sidewalk and the walks and steps for 4 buildings in the complex...too much liability. I generally don't service Old Lyme...don't like taking my rig over the bridge.

RSK Property Maintenance
10-27-2012, 09:08 AM
It's more than $15 at this point. I go to hourly billing after October 15th. I got 4 lawns done today and that was busting my tail double-timing it. Granted I'm not known for early starts, lol.

Yeah, keeping up on the leaves works best for me. I actually had a customer thank me today even though I'd been there 10 days ago and by tomorrow you probably won't be able to tell I was there...oaks were raining down pretty fast.

I have some accounts in Old Saybrook, not very good ones though. They're profitable and all, just all crappy bi-weekly lawns. I lost 4 of my Old Saybrook accounts this season. Two sold and the other two were for the same guy, his business and his house. I lost them because I didn't want his commercial plowing account....didn't want to deal with hundreds of feet of Main Street sidewalk and the walks and steps for 4 buildings in the complex...too much liability. I generally don't service Old Lyme...don't like taking my rig over the bridge.

yeah i need to adjust my bagging rate for some of the properties that get heavy leaves. I broke out the little wonder leaf blower yesterday for 25 minutes on one house, I just ran it over part of the back yard that was really thick and pushed the bulk of the leaves into the woods, then cut it and bagged it and it looked perfect. and I charged an extra 30 dollars. working solo until i do final clean ups.

That area is still nice though. I wouldn't mind working on that side of ct.

FerrisDiesel
11-03-2012, 09:11 PM
It's so funny you brought this up. I too am a solo operation, and have the same system you do. I sent a letter out with the last billing saying that the final fall clean-up prices would stay the same, but I would be mowing all lawns on a bi-weekly basis to help keep the lawns looking good. This makes it easier for me as a solo operation to do the final clean-up myself, by reducing the number of times I have to dump the truck, and number of hours spent on the lawn. It's a win win for all.......they have a great looking lawn every other week, and i'm not busting my beans to get clean-ups done before the snow comes!

4 seasons lawn&land
11-03-2012, 09:46 PM
i used to worry about the optimal way to do leaves and getting people to go along with it. Now I pretty much just do whatever they want and charge accordingly. Its not worth going through the whole spiel over and over. If an area is going to get too bad I just do them, and if they question it I say I just did those areas because they were getting too thick for the leaf equipment so it will save you money overall on the final cleanup

Darryl G
11-04-2012, 07:17 PM
Funny now they're all wondering what's taking me so long to get to their cleanups....Hurricane Sandy stripped most of the remaining leaves off the trees and now just about everywhere needs a final cleanup.

Smallaxe
11-05-2012, 07:59 AM
Funny now they're all wondering what's taking me so long to get to their cleanups....Hurricane Sandy stripped most of the remaining leaves off the trees and now just about everywhere needs a final cleanup.

I remember as a kid when one of my buddies got an old truck and we'd run around town after a major wind storm and offer to haul away a load of branches off the yards for 20 bucks...

How do your neighborhoods look???

Darryl G
11-05-2012, 08:47 AM
Inland it's a mess and the beach area is a disaster zone...houses heavily damaged, sand dunes gone (now in the road). This is the road along the town beach.

My house is low lying on a tidal river and we did ok other than having a river in my drive-under garage. I had sealed off the doors with plastic and a 3 foot berm but about 6 inches of water leaked...no biggie in the overall scheme of things. It seems like the tree/wind damage was worse last year with Hurricane Irene but the flooding was much worse with Sandy. Things are getting back to normal though...kids are back to school after a week off.

Kelly's Landscaping
11-05-2012, 10:59 AM
Mine expect a single final clean up and that's what they get. I had one complain that we did him to early last year and wants it later so we looked him up we did his clean up Dec 3rd. Never really considered that an early clean up date before. I figure I got to wait till Nov 12-15th and we should be able to start full time final clean ups on selective clients and by the 20th or so 80% will be ready. The mini clean ups end up costing us more than they are worth if the lawn looks good many can life with the beds being filled with leaves and say they are set for the year. Rather get the real deal where we average about 300 dollars per clean up and do 90-110 every year.

FerrisDiesel
11-05-2012, 06:01 PM
Mine expect a single final clean up and that's what they get. I had one complain that we did him to early last year and wants it later so we looked him up we did his clean up Dec 3rd. Never really considered that an early clean up date before. I figure I got to wait till Nov 12-15th and we should be able to start full time final clean ups on selective clients and by the 20th or so 80% will be ready. The mini clean ups end up costing us more than they are worth if the lawn looks good many can life with the beds being filled with leaves and say they are set for the year. Rather get the real deal where we average about 300 dollars per clean up and do 90-110 every year.

That's what I did last year, just one clean up, but I am a solo operation and I was dragging by the end of the year. This year I bought a 52" Walker GHS, a new back pack and made my leaf box taller. By just bagging the lawns every other week with the walker, I have increased the capacity I can put in the truck, thus decreasing the amount of times I have to dump. Plus when I do my final clean-up I will charge them the full amount I charged them last year.

Smallaxe
11-06-2012, 09:40 AM
That picture of the sand looked like a snow storm... that's a lot of sand and I don't think us teenagers would have been running around, offering to clean that up...
Sea salt a big issue???

Darryl G
11-07-2012, 01:27 PM
Yeah the sea salt will kill all the lawns that it got onto. They tend to struggle as it is just due to sea spray. Many of the lots down there are small and have no grass at all...just gravel, concrete or asphalt with maybe a small back lawn. I don't typically service the immediate beach area because there's literally nowhere to park a trailer. I mowed beach lawns one day a week running out of just the truck when I first started out, but I got tired of dealing with the issues that arose working for summer-only residents.

ralph02813
11-07-2012, 02:27 PM
I guess the point of my original post was to point out that there is a difference between how we see things and how the customer sees them. Most of them think that a one-time cleanup is the way to go, not understanding that by the time that would occur the lawn would have been smothered for weeks, the grass will be long and the leaves will be thick, wet and matted. Not to mention that if you have multiple properties to service, there is just not enough time to get all the cleanups done at that point before winter sets in without having to call in the National Guard for help.

After doing my rounds this past Monday - I got two emails from customers thanking me for keeping their yards looking so nice - I think we operate very similarly.

andyslawncare
11-08-2012, 07:35 PM
So do you bring you mowers out with you on another rig when you're using the dump trailer? That's similar to the setup I had one year but working solo it was a lot of work to get all the leaves to my trailer and suck them up. I seem to do better running my Lazer in my dump trailer, grinding and bagging them. It's not like sucking them up isn't work. You have to either handle the nozzle or lay it down and rake to it. It just seemed I was more worn out doing it that way and didn't make any faster progress. Granted there are some properties where it's more efficient, but overall I didn't like it. If I had a dump truck rather than dump trailer that might be different.

How many clean ups were you able to do in 1 day solo with your rig though? Seems that being able to offer curbside pickup (in my area) would be a hot service! If you have to maintenance the property too, then route where you could have 2 trucks and 2 employees---1 with equipment and 1 with debris---we do this frequently for larger clean up jobs where debris must be removed.

Darryl G
11-09-2012, 12:07 AM
I typically only do 2 or 3 cleanups a day working solo when I get to the point of final cleanups. Most of my accounts are 2+ acre lots with a wooded border that I can blow or dump the leaves into, but they get a lot of leaves. I only have a handful of accounts where I have to haul leaves away. Only one of those has a lot of leaves.

I don't usually have time to be doing curbside pickup. Every year I tell myself that when I'm done with all my regular accounts I'll go chasing piles, but usually I'm running flat out until the week before Christmas trying to get everything done for my regulars before winter sets in. By then it's kind of late to go chasing piles. Besides, my leaf box is now skateboard ramps, lol.

I think it's all about knowing what your options are and trying different methods, but sticking with what works for you given the properties you service and the equipment you have. Some people from other areas can't believe that I just blow and/or dump the leaves on the property, but if you saw them you'd understand why.

I have 6 accounts in this subdivision....lots of leaves but lots of places to stash them too! That's an interactive link so you can move around and zoom in/out. The brown areas are pretty much all trees, but the photo was probably taken in the spring when the leaves were off. Not exactly a cookie cutter subdivision. One nice thing is that fences are pretty much nonexistant :)

http://binged.it/SUzJkq

bobbycat02
01-30-2013, 07:56 PM
Starting in the month of OCT we switch from high lift blades to gator blades and start lowering the mowers 1/4 of an inch each week until we get to 2.5 inches then we mow till OCT 30 then we cut every two weeks till we get to their clean up.We start Nov 15th regardless how many leaves are down you have to start some were very short window of operation about 35 to 45 days before it snows or rains a lot so cant make everyone happy so if customers say i want to wait till they all come down my response is okay but when we come if you want to wait we might be back before bad weather arrives and they don't get done its not are fault we will do it in the spring. I will not do clean ups in the winter my leaf loader dose not like frozen wet leaves. So do the people that want to get done and make money while you can because down here we don't always get snow to plow and its a long 3 months when your broke and no money.Don't let the time wasters cost you jobs and money move on the next ones that are willing to pay and for people who don't get done cause they waited it will be more money in the spring wet water logged leaves from winter to wet spring leaves = more time more money that's what i tell them after hearing that they will be more inclined to do it when your there it always works for me pay now or a lot more later your choice not mine dosen't matter i make money one way or the other.:usflag: