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DFW Area Landscaper
06-25-2004, 11:51 PM
If any of us could reduce our cancellation rate, we'd all see our businesses grow a lot faster.

Last summer, I had this old man who was retired. He'd come out to the porch every time I cut and I'd have to spend a good three to five minutes BS'ing with him. His nieghbor once asked me for a price and she mentioned that "David"...that was the old man's name...was very pleased. The old man even once mentioned that his wife was very pleased with my work. I never failed to show up on the day I was supposed to...never once.

To make a long story short, he fired me this spring. He hired some new guys to mow his lawn. I saw them out about a month ago...real pale skinned white dudes...operating out of the bed of a pick up. It was obvious to me they were new to the business.

My point of this is, price was the only issue with this old man. All the small talk I made with him was for not. In fact, I think it made him feel more comfortable paying me late.

It's a very small sample size, I know, but being "friends" with your customers doesn't keep them on the schedule, from what I've seen.

So what does?

I know the whole mantra...show up when you're supposed to...do quality work...treat customers professionally...wear uniforms...keep the trucks clean and lettered...on and on.

One thing I have noticed within my customer base is that customers who use a professional weed & feed, be it mine or a competitor's, are much less likely to cancel service. When we leave these properties, the well nourished lawns are dark green, predominantly weed free and they look nice. However, when we leave a mal-nourished lawn, they just looked mowed, but nothing impressive. It's definitely something the home owner could do himself.

And therein lies the problem, I think. If the homeowner thinks he can do just as good a job as you, he'll eventually find a better use for the money and "do it himself".

But when the lawn looks really good, one of the best on the street, these consumers start thinking in terms of "I can't cancel that...I know I can't do that...I have to have that." And you simply can't have a beautiful lawn without a "weed & feed" program.

Of course, the problem I run into is this: If the lawn isn't covered with henbit and dadelions when they sign up for mowing, I simply can't get them to pay for weed & feed apps. They just won't do it. So this week, I offered to give three of my weekly customers free weed & feed for six months. Like a dope dealer trying to get a teenager "hooked" on the product.

Am I wasting my time and money?

Is this just my imagination, or are other LCO's around the country noticing the same thing: Customers with professional weed & feed are less likely to cancel the mowing service.?.?.?.?

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

Trevors Lawn Care
06-26-2004, 12:14 AM
Havnt lost a customer yet...whether it be weed n feed or rain or cheaper labor.

this sounds framiliar...have we heard this before?

Trevor

1MajorTom
06-26-2004, 12:19 AM
Originally posted by Trevors Lawn Care
Havnt lost a customer yet...whether it be weed n feed or rain or cheaper labor.

Trevor

Really? Your profile says you've been in business for 6 years, and never once ever did you lose a customer? Congratulations.

GrassBustersLawn
06-26-2004, 12:39 AM
DFW

I know what you are talking about. You think you have really good relations with a customer, know their kids names (and they know my kids names, etc) and then they drop you because somebody will cut them for $5 a week cheaper!

I have decided to not take it "personal", although it is tough, when this business is pretty much YOUR LIFE! I am now in the line of thinking that eventually we will lose every customer (not all at the SAME TIME hopefully). It is our job to MAXIMIZE the VALUE of the customer while we have them. Whatever that means to you, might be something different to me. But what I'm talking about is not only getting the top $ for a service (mowing - for example) but also selling other services (squirt & fert/mulch/cleanups/leaves etc.). They have bought from me once and should be more likely to buy other services too. That way I can increase my revenue from each customer. I can also concentrate my SALES & SERVICE efforts on those people that are PROVEN (thru history of purchase with my business) to be WORTHY of MY TIME!

Mike

GrassBustersLawn
06-26-2004, 12:45 AM
DFW

I would make it contingent upon them staying with you for mowing, OF COURSE. I know that is what you are thinking, but who knows what a client thinks when you offer to give them 6 months of free fert. (I've given up trying to figure out what clients are thinking!!!)

Secondly, I would charge $1 per app, or something similar. In IN some LCO's try to get around PEST LICENSE by saying they are "giving free treatment", but the Office of Indiana State Chemist won't buy that line. (I'm assuming TX won't do that either, and that you are licensed.) Also with the $1 you can prove to your insurer that they are a valid client, should some sort of problem arise and the client seeks damages from you.

PS: I got your recent PM. I say go for it.


Mike

yz250fpilot
06-26-2004, 12:47 AM
Originally posted by 1MajorTom
Really? Your profile says you've been in business for 6 years, and never once ever did you lose a customer? Congratulations.

Exactly what I was thinking.

I lost one yesterday. As a matter of fact, this lady always praised my work and raved about the edging, etc.. I valued her as one of my best customers and always went beyond what needed to be done to take care of this property.

She bought herself a riding mower and stated her 350 lb+ son was going to start doing the lawn. The lawn isn't bad to mow, but she's not going to be getting the nice defined sidewalks she used to get. This is a nice size corner lot with well in excess of 1000 feet of concrete to edge. That was the major part about the job, not the mowing. I wonder how long it will be before I get a call? :)

Lawn-Scapes
06-26-2004, 01:15 AM
I really think it boils down to the clientele you have and/or target. You know... the ones with money that have no desire to do the work themselves. The ones that if you are reliable and do a good job for them.. you won't lose them over $5..... and they will in fact pay you more than the last guy because you are better.

It also helps if you can offer them the complete package and if there is something you don't do... you know someone that can get it done for you.

This is what works for me...

DFW Area Landscaper
06-26-2004, 09:21 AM
++++I am now in the line of thinking that eventually we will lose every customer++++

I'm beginning to think you're right. The question quickly becomes, how long can you expect them to stay on the schedule and how much does it cost you to gain a new customer?

I mean, if your average cost to gain a new customer is $100 and the average customer revenue expectation is $1,000, we're wasting our time. But if the revenue expectation is $10,000, maybe there's money to be made in this business.

That's why it's so important, in my opinion, to do everything possible to reduce cancellations.

The thing I've noticed is that of the customers who have been on my regular weekly mowing schedule, excluding those who sold their homes, roughly 2/3 of those who cancelled did not use a professional weed/feed service.

I'd like to have a larger sample than just my customers. If someone has the time, please go back through you're records and group your ex-customers into three groups: (1) people who sold their home (2) people who cancelled and did not use a professional weed/fert program (3) people who cancelled and did use a professional weed/fert program.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

qualitylandscaping
06-26-2004, 09:38 AM
I know what you are talking about. You think you have really good relations with a customer, know their kids names (and they know my kids names, etc) and then they drop you because somebody will cut them for $5 a week cheaper!

Having the same problem in my home town right now.. I got a 1 acre account in town for $50.. I mow the first week, come back the next week and this other guy is doing it for $45..

Its all an underbidding game. I have lost 5 accounts in the last month to one guy who has underbid me on everything.. Ohh well, we are doing over 190 accounts this year so scrubbles can steal all he wants. One of my accounts is $8,000 per week. That account pays the bills and I couldn't give a horses a$$ about the rest of them..

I'm giving up on the people around here who want top notch service for $20.. Just not happening!

jajwrigh
06-26-2004, 10:25 AM
Originally posted by DFW Area Landscaper
++++I am now in the line of thinking that eventually we will lose every customer++++

I'm beginning to think you're right. The question quickly becomes, how long can you expect them to stay on the schedule and how much does it cost you to gain a new customer?

I mean, if your average cost to gain a new customer is $100 and the average customer revenue expectation is $1,000, we're wasting our time. But if the revenue expectation is $10,000, maybe there's money to be made in this business.

That's why it's so important, in my opinion, to do everything possible to reduce cancellations.

The thing I've noticed is that of the customers who have been on my regular weekly mowing schedule, excluding those who sold their homes, roughly 2/3 of those who cancelled did not use a professional weed/feed service.

I'd like to have a larger sample than just my customers. If someone has the time, please go back through you're records and group your ex-customers into three groups: (1) people who sold their home (2) people who cancelled and did not use a professional weed/fert program (3) people who cancelled and did use a professional weed/fert program.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper


This makes you realize the harsh reality of it all...Its not IF you will lose them but rather WHEN!!

Steve9
06-26-2004, 10:40 AM
Its the Wal MArt syndrome. Yeah yeah yeah, everybody hates wal mart right and they dont want them building in their area proclaiming they will never shop there if they do. As soon as they open the doors and people realize they can save a quarter on milk they will be busting down the door. Its just the way it is.
As far as free fert. its a good idea but to expensive. Maybe offer the first one free? The people here in DFW with s@@t for yards i try to talk into fertilizer app one time. Once they see the difference in a week they almost always want me to continue on a regular basis. Im in DFW too so iknow what you mean about the sparsely growing thinned out yellowed bermuda growing on impacted hard as heck clay! My customers like that i usually leave them a note telling them what to buy as far as fert or if they prefer I can do it for X amount. This way it doesn't seem like im pushing them for stuff they dont want.
I thought about putting down winter rye for free. Hey a $15 bag a seed will keep u busy all winter cutting it. Now thats a good return on investment!

matthew horner
06-26-2004, 10:46 AM
where'd trevor go?

fga
06-26-2004, 10:48 AM
i lose customers every year, but try to gain more then i lose.... so its a slow process, but its a process.

locutus
06-26-2004, 10:50 AM
I lost one the other day because they are having financial trouble and their daughter agreed to do it for them. I dont take this kind of thing personally, peoples situations change. I do have a feeling that the daughter will not be able to keep up with it though.

Pilgrims' Pride
06-26-2004, 11:30 AM
Losing customers always bites.
Ya I get attached to them too.
We know all about each others kids, bring the dog a treat on occasion and all the rest.
But I see that one thing stays true.
Customers are not friends no matter how chummy they get with you.
One thing that keeps the distance for me is I will never call a customer by his or her first name. Not even if I'm invited.
I explain that I do the best I can always, for everyone but occasionally things change and people cancel.
So Mr Homeowner I'd rather keep it proffessional and call you Mr.
It works for me.

As far as losing them, what troubles me is the cowardice they have when it comes.
Most of the time they will not give me the true reason nor will I get the chance to discuss things with them.
I believe there is always a chance to save a customer for most any reason if they give me a chance.

So keep your sales high and do the best you can to keep the cancels down and good luck.

txlawnking
06-26-2004, 12:37 PM
I agree I will be "chummy" wiyh my customers, but it ends there. I try to remain as professional as I can with all my custs. I am constantly trying to find new customers. Even if I had a full schedule, as some of you do, I would NEVER leave a potential cust. hanging I'd either expand or find some way to keep them interested in my company..

bobbygedd
06-26-2004, 01:05 PM
ah hah!! so you do all lose customers!!!! in fact you lose more than me, and you're all butt kissers!! to answer your question reguarding weed n feed/fert programs, and customer retention.....the fact is, when they are buying the extras, this shows a genuine concern by them about the well being of thier lawn, and thier standing in the nieghborhood. if they are getting the desired results, by keeping you, then they will keep you. if it's just a mow n blow, they figure anyone can do it, and the next guy whos flyer is on thier door, charging $3 bucks less, is your exit sign.

walker-talker
06-26-2004, 01:19 PM
Instead of offering them free chem apps, what I have down in the past was to offer them a total 100% money back guarentee if they did not see results after the first chep app. This has been on lawns that have a lot of dandelions...an easy kill.

DFW Area Landscaper
05-02-2005, 02:33 PM
Just a follow up to this thread almost a year later.

Remember, I "prototyped" three customers with the fert/weed control plan, six months for free.

One of the customers sent me an e-mail this spring and said that she wanted me to mow every other week til May first and she also didn't want me to charge her card anymore. She wanted me to start billing her each month. I stood up to her and she fired me. In this instance, I think the free fert plan for six months was a huge error. It was a sign of weakness and when I needed to reieterate terms she thought she should be able to dictate them to the lowly lawn mowing company. We did a total five apps and only charged for the last one.

One of the customers threatened to cancel service twice last fall after we gave her the free service. She never cancelled service, though. Again, I think the free fert for six months was a sign of weakness and produced more complaints and threats of cancellation.

Last week, I got an e-mail from her. Here it is:

You've been keeping our lawn for some time now, and we've been very pleased. Unfortunately, we have to reduce expenses and lawn care is one of our luxuries. It makes us really sad, because we take pride in the lawn and we don't have a working lawn mower to do it ourselves. Question: Would you consider mowing our lawn every 2-3 weeks instead of every week? I'm not sure we can even afford that expense, but the lawn must be mowed. Please let me hear from you ASAP.

Once again, as I've come to realize with the customers in my area, demographics dictate that if they need or want to start doing the lawn themselves, they will. And I will be fired, whether I've been doing a great job or a pathetic one. When it comes to the vast majority of my cancellations, quality simply isn't an issue. It's an issue of money and how the customer wants to spend it differently.

I sent her an e-mail explaining that we can do it every other week, but if we do that, we have to end the fert plan. Either way, four apps free and we billed her for two. This wasn't a smart investment. Still haven't heard back from her on the bi-weekly offer.

As for the third one, he is still ticking along. No complaints.

So the six month free fert plan has, for the most part, been a bad idea. Not only does it cost money and time, but it's also a sign of weakness. Once a customer smells weakness, they'll eat you alive. I think it's important to point out that none of the customers elected to simply cancel the fert plan but keep the mowing.

If you try to offer one app for free, it just isn't enough time to show them what the plan is capable of doing.

I think the lesson here is that you can't turn a tight wad into a spender. At least not consistently. Bobbygedd's repsonse in this thread last year was right on the money. When they spend more mony on the lawn, this shows a genuine concern by them about the quality of the lawn. This is why I'm seeing a lower churn rate with mowing clients who use a professional fert plan. It's actually very simple.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

mastercare
05-02-2005, 03:40 PM
Different customers have different triggers.....for some its price, and that won't change. For others its being a "nice guy." I find that the latter is the best method.

I was just sitting in front of a computer an hour ago when one of my best customers calls......and said he'd like to show me some work he wants done. So, its raining, and I run right over. I spent 30 mins there just Bs'ing. When I went to leave he asked If I'd come by sometimes and move an empty file cabinet upstairs for him. This customer is quite elderly with lots of medical problems....can't even use stairs anymore. So, I carried it up the stairs, and he asked how much he owed!!! I of course told him nothing.... but while I was there, I made a LONG list of services he wanted done.

This guy has me do EVERYTHING for him.....and never squeaks a word about the bills. He would honestly pay any price I gave him. He doesn't even ask the cost of services....he just says do it and bill me.

I know that a lot of you will say you just don't have 30 mins to talk with an old man, and what a waste of time. This is my single most profitable account....even if I included all the time I spend shooting the bull. It got that way because of the time I spend with him......and he pays his bill the day he gets it.

I wouldn't do it with everyone, and not on cutting days........but if you have the time, a little bit of talking and a favor here and there....makes those customers yours for life, and is worth every minute.

We all have a small group of favorite customers.....and that's where we should spend our time.

cantoo
05-02-2005, 10:26 PM
DFW, I kind of thought the same thing a few years ago. I had a customer with a really thin lawn on their summer property that needed overseeding to make it look better. I agree to overseed it for my costs of the seed. I have a tractor and 4' seeder so it didn't take long. What followed then was two weeks of heavy heavy rain then 6 weeks of very little rain. I couldn't even find any of the new grass and the customer told me it was a waste of money. I should have gave him a price to overseed it and a no guarantee on paper instead of the cost of materials and no paper. Or I should have just let him keep him thin lawn the way it was. When I suggested the "free" overseeding I got the feeling he was thinking I was just doing it to be able to cut it more often and make money off him. The reason I did it was becasue he said he was going to spend more time there and he wanted it to look good for visiting friends. I was ready to fire the customer for his almost smart mouth saying that it was a waste of money. We still do the lawn but we do nothing extra.