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mtdman
01-06-2004, 07:54 AM
I am a solo operator, and I have a limit to how much regular, weekly work I can take. When I get booked up, I usually leave a message on my voicemail indicating I cannot take any more customers, and that I'm booked up. Right now I have a message that states I am booked for snow clearing for the winter, for instance.

Invariably, I will get people who call for estimates that say "I know you said you are booked up, but I was wondering if you would be willing to take another customer". Or something similar. And there are also people who will just ignore that and ask for an estimate anyway. When it gets to the point that I leave that message, usually I am seriously booked up and in no way can I take more work. In fact, I took on more work than I could handle last year because I got greedy, and busted my butt off just to try to handle the load. I always feel bad about turning aside work, but there is only so much I can handle.

Personally, I just ignore the calls. I don't really have time to call everyone back that calls, I'd be on the phone all the time and not working. And I don't like to give an estimate for work I can't do, again it's a waste of productivity. I try to make it clear in the message that I can't take more mowing work, and indicate what kind of estimates I am giving, what kind of work I have availability for. I always try to be exact in my messages, to eliminate a lot of unnecessary call backs and to provide info for people as easily as possible.

Sometimes when they ignore the message about being booked, I get so mad. I get mad because they didn't listen, I get mad because I can't take the work, and I get mad because I feel guilty about not being able to help them. Argh!

My question is, what would you do when people call and ask for estimates even though the message says I cannot take more work? Would you return the call, give an estimate, or ignore them?



(Also, I know that if I were to expand and hire people to help, I could take more work. That's a whole different topic, and I don't want to get into that. That's not the question, please save those kind of comments. I am asking what is the best way to handle calls for work when you cannot take any more work. That is all.)

wojo23323
01-06-2004, 07:59 AM
Always call back and tell them you are booked. If you decide to expand you have some leads to call. If you ignore, they will never call again.

David Haggerty
01-06-2004, 08:24 AM
Sure you're message says you're too busy to take on more work.

What the person hears is this person is so good, so successful and reasonably priced that he's swamped!


It all goes back to the old adage;
If you want something done, ask a busy man.



You could refer work to someone else, raise your prices or change your message to sound like you're desperate for work.
:rolleyes:

In any case your life don't sound too bad. Are you complaining because your plate is too full?

Dave

John Gamba
01-06-2004, 08:48 AM
Your lucky the problem is your toooooooo busy, Some people have it the other way.
So count your blessings.
John

mtdman
01-06-2004, 09:36 AM
I suppose I shouldn't complain. I just don't get why people ask anyway, even with the message.

I have tried to refer to a couple of local people, but it hasn't been very successful. To be honest, there aren't a whole lot of local lcos that I would refer people to.

allstar
01-06-2004, 09:46 AM
The last thing I would do is get pissed or angry about being TOO busy.It would be hard for me not to take advantage of that situation...in some way.Regardless,it's a nice problem to have.

mtdman
01-06-2004, 09:52 AM
Originally posted by allstar
The last thing I would do is get pissed or angry about being TOO busy.It would be hard for me not to take advantage of that situation...in some way.Regardless,it's a nice problem to have.

When you're booked for 6 days a week, and it rains 3 of those, and you're almost 2 weeks behind on some of your lawns and you're going crazy because you've got more work than you could possibly handle, believe me, you don't have time to entertain thoughts of taking more work.

Mikes Lawn Landscape
01-06-2004, 10:16 AM
How bout subbing out ?

GLAWNLLC
01-06-2004, 10:25 AM
ALWAYS call back. Have you thought about sub-coontracting the extra work out?

Ron

walker-talker
01-06-2004, 10:27 AM
Originally posted by Mikes Lawn Landscape
How bout subbing out ? I think this is a great idea...do you know someone that is starting out that you can trust....trust his quality and dependability that is. Have you considered taking on new account and dropping a less profitable one?

mtdman
01-06-2004, 10:45 AM
Originally posted by Mikes Lawn Landscape
How bout subbing out ?

I have tried to refer to a couple of local people, but it hasn't been very successful. To be honest, there aren't a whole lot of local lcos that I would refer people to.

Or sub to.

mtdman
01-06-2004, 10:56 AM
The whole thing that got me thinking about this is I had a woman call for snow clearing yesterday that left a message, even though the voicemail said I am booked. She happens to be a woman that I was supposed to do leaves for this fall. When I showed up to do the job, it was already done. She told me she paid a homeless bum to do it, because he needed the money. At the time, I was very mad and told her that I too needed the money, which is the reason why I worked, and that she cost me not only the money that her job was going to cost, but also the money I could have made if I had taken another job.

Anywho, I thought it was very ballsey of her to call for snow clearing during a snow storm, after she had already screwed me over once, and even though I said I was booked. Either ballsey, or just plain stupid.


Maybe I'll have to try to make the effort to call people back even when I'm booked. Some days, though, I'm so tired at the end of the day and just want to relax and unwind. There really isn't much profit in calling someone back to tell them I can't work for them, after I've already told them on the message that I'm booked up. Kind of redundant and repetitive, and a tax on my already limited time.

work_it
01-06-2004, 11:52 AM
Maybe the woman thought she'd make it up to you. After all, you did tell her that you needed the money too, and then went on to tell her that you lost money on both ends. You probably made her feel so bad that she's determined to make it up to you. Who knows, you could turn out to be one of your favorite customers.

FrankenScagMachines
01-06-2004, 11:53 AM
If it was me, if I were that busy (hard to imagine sometimes LOL but Iíve been pretty busy before) then Iíd call everyone back and nicely explain that youíre so busy that you simply canít handle any more work right now, but can I please have your name and number (if you donít have that already) or something like Iíll call you when we have an opening. This way the people will remember how nice Tom was to them and will know that you care about them. This will give you a much better advantage than ignoring them, then they think youíre rude and will never hire you. I say get all their names and numbers and tell them theyíre on your waiting list, this way when you want more work of any sort you have a much bigger list of contacts. Thatís what Iíd do. Your reputation is your biggest asset. One satisfied customer will tell 3 or 4 people, one unhappy customer will tell 10 in half the time! I always call customers (not for regular weekly mowing) and tell them if Iím going to be late (not same day as scheduled) because sometimes they want to be there when you do it and they have other things to do just like you. Ok Iím digressing. Sorry. But Iíd call them all back.

mtdman
01-06-2004, 12:02 PM
Originally posted by work_it
Maybe the woman thought she'd make it up to you. After all, you did tell her that you needed the money too, and then went on to tell her that you lost money on both ends. You probably made her feel so bad that she's determined to make it up to you. Who knows, you could turn out to be one of your favorite customers.

If she wanted to make it up to me, she should have paid me for the leaf job and left me alone. :D I'm not a glutton for punishment, and if someone's going to screw me over, I'm not going to bend over and wait for seconds.

Franken, good advice. I guess I let my contempt for stupid people who can't listen to my messages override my responsibilty to customer service.

:D

pcnservices
01-06-2004, 12:10 PM
mtd,
I am in a similar situation. I am saturated with snow removal work. I can work harder, start earlier in the morning, work till later in the evenings, BUT when am I going to learn to say NO to people? This winter I even went and placed a newspaper ad in the classified columns. My wife is so mad at me for that.
I know I have to say no, but then again I take on these new clients hoping I might get extra work from them during the year. I am a never-say-no-man.

What I am currently doing is to subcontract some of the snow removal work I cannot handle or get to to another contractor.

He is also a pro lco. He is, besides me, the only other lco in our area that is also a member of our state's professional lawn care association. I know the quality of work he does ( I see that every day) and he employ expierenced, licensed workers with at least some degree of work ethics. Our pricing infrastructure is Ī the same.

When I take on these jobs I will tell my customers that I have a pre qualified contractor that will be out there to do the work for them and they never had any problems with that. I do follow up to see if the work is done and if they did a good job according to my standard. I will invoice those clients and then pay the hired contractor. I am not going to canvas for work and new clients at my cost and then simply give them away.

PC

Doc Pete2
01-06-2004, 12:17 PM
Originally posted by John Gamba
Your lucky the problem is your toooooooo busy, Some people have it the other way.
So count your blessings.
John

For those that are out of touch with reality, please print out John's comment, and paste it on your truck's windshield as a reminder.

:cool2: AMEN, JOHN...:cool2:

Remsen1
01-06-2004, 12:21 PM
Do you have anybody that could help with the phone call end of your business? I agree that you should call everybody back. I too dislike talking on the phone (even if it is work that I want), but I am getting better about it. I make sure my wife knows what my schedule is so she can pass a message for me if I am not there and get some details for me so I can sound intelligent when I return the call. I'm always afraid that I will come off as sounding "slow" if I'm not prepared to answer questions quickly or sound like I'm inexperienced if I have to think about the answer to a question that I haven't thought much about before.

DFW Area Landscaper
01-06-2004, 12:28 PM
MTD,

Good problem to have. I think you should consider this idea. Go to your lowest margin clients and tell them the price is going up. Some will get mad and cancel. If they don't, you've just increased your $$ per hour. If they do, start going out on some of those opportunities and bid high.

I've got several accounts lined up for price increases once I get my schedule full. I've still got a lot of "schedule filling" to do before I start demanding more money, though. It may be spring of '05 (year 3) before I can do that.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

mtdman
01-06-2004, 12:37 PM
Originally posted by pcnservices
I am a never-say-no-man.

I have learned, I hope, that I can't say yes to everyone. I'd go insane. I burned out this year as it was.

I guess a lot of the problem I had this past season was that I downsized before the start of the year because my partner quit, and went solo. I was not sure how much I could handle, and took too much work. I did finally get to the point where I decided I was booked and stopped taking customers. But even then the requests for quotes kept coming. Even though I spent $0 this year on advertising for new lawn mowing customers.

I had a lot of people respond to my advertising for aerations and fall leaf clean up with requests for mowing service. When I was advertising for that work, my voicemail stated I was booked for regular mowing service, and listed the services I was giving estimates for. I still got the lawn requests, though, which is what frustrated me.

I guess I didn't realize other people didn't have this problem, and I suppose I am lucky that I have so many requests for work. I'm sure if I had employees, payroll, and expenses to meet I wouldn't be complaining. But then again, maybe that's why I decided not to have employees, other expenses, and a payroll to meet? I guess if you gotta have problems, it's not a bad problem to have.

:D

mtdman
01-06-2004, 12:40 PM
Originally posted by DFW Area Landscaper
MTD,

Good problem to have. I think you should consider this idea. Go to your lowest margin clients and tell them the price is going up. Some will get mad and cancel. If they don't, you've just increased your $$ per hour. If they do, start going out on some of those opportunities and bid high.

I've got several accounts lined up for price increases once I get my schedule full. I've still got a lot of "schedule filling" to do before I start demanding more money, though. It may be spring of '05 (year 3) before I can do that.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

Yeah, I realized that, and that's on tap for this spring. See the 'Biggest Increase' thread.

:D

satxmow
01-06-2004, 12:56 PM
mtd maybe the lady is not ballsey or stupid. she probally felt bad after hearing you complain about money you had not earned. instead of keeping in good standing with this customer and having future income so you can keep being overbooked you wouild rather lose her because you felt cheated although she was doing something at the time to help someone less fortunate than others. as you can already tell she can have someone else do the job but she called you.:D

pcnservices
01-06-2004, 01:11 PM
mtd, Thank the Lord for blessing you with so much work and the opportunity to take your business to the next higher level of professionalism and financial security.

Don't look at ways of downsizing your business or refusing any work. Look at ways of managing it and how you can benefit from it.

The smartest managers in this world sit with their feet up on their desk and they live the life man! payup

PC

mtdman
01-06-2004, 01:18 PM
Originally posted by pcnservices
mtd, Thank the Lord for blessing you with so much work and the opportunity to take your business to the next higher level of professionalism and financial security.

Don't look at ways of downsizing your business or refusing any work. Look at ways of managing it and how you can benefit from it.

The smartest managers in this world sit with their feet up on their desk and they live the life man! payup

PC

As I said at the beginning, the question is not about expanding or taking more work. I am quite happy at the size I am at, both customer-wise and responsibility-wise. I just wanted to know if I should call them back or not, and how to deal with the frustration of people who didn't listen to my message about being booked up.

rodfather
01-06-2004, 01:30 PM
My take on all this is..."problems of volume can be solved. It's when you have no volume you got a problem".

pcnservices
01-06-2004, 01:50 PM
Originally posted by mtdmaster
I just wanted to know if I should call them back or not, and how to deal with the frustration of people who didn't listen to my message about being booked up.
To answer your question directly -
YES out of decency I will call them back and explain in a professional manner that you would really like to do work for them but becuase of circumstances beyond your control you cannot do the work they requested.
Refer them to a pre qualified contractor and give them his tel # to contact.
Follow up on that client to see if they did get hold of that contractor and if so, ask them wheter they were satisfied with the work he did for them.

This is what I do and indirectly I am building my client relationship whether I/m doing the job or not. Customers appreciate your professionalism and honesty.

PC

lawnman_scott
01-06-2004, 02:09 PM
I wouldnt waste my time. These people are probably just going to be the ones that want it done yesterday for free, kind of like the leaf ladv. If you were to call for a service, and they said they were booked but you left a message anyway, would you expect a call back so they could tell you they are booked? Me either, and I am not a lawncare refferal service either. Busy=Busy, the end.

Grassmechanic
01-06-2004, 02:16 PM
If you have too many customers, you are probably not charging enough. Cream always rises to the top, and that's where you should focus getting your customers from. Like a previous guy said, raise your prices on your accounts. Some will drop and allow you to take on the others that come along. Become more profitable by getting the customers to compete for you. I'd rather have 100 lawns at $50, than 125 at $40.