"one guy called me 8 times in one day. turned out to be a neighbor of an existing client, when i was over at my clients he came over and said he was trying to get a hold of me"
Sooooo, you had a potential Customer who is the neighbor of an existing Customer who made a good bit of effort to contact you and because he didn't want to leave a message he wasn't worthy of being a Customer? I'd like to hear the conversation that guy had with his neighbor after all that. And all the other neighbors.....
Personally, I hate talking to machines. I seldom leave voicemails and rarely will fight my way through automated phone systems. When I call someone who I plan to spend money with, I expect some personalized service. If I'm spending maybe a couple to a few thousand dollars with them, I'm not going to let that Vendor decide when I can spend my money, I'm ready to do business now. I'm the Customer, if someone doesn't want my business, ok, I'll go elsewhere, and, I'll tell everyone else why I went elsewhere. I mean, that's like walking into a dealership to buy a new mower and having the salesman tell me go stand in a corner and he'll get around to me when he feels like it.
This is a Service industry. People pay for Service and if you want to rise to the top, emulate what the top guys do. Yardguy, I wish you the best in however you want to run your business and if you're happy with it, then that's all that matters for your situation. But in the short time I've been on this site I've seen a lot of people new to business ownership and I offer this to those people. I've owned one or more business at any given time since 1986 and if you want to grow, and profit well, and stay in business, put your Customer's needs first. Because there is another guy half a step behind you ready to take over. Remember, your new Customer is hardly ever a virgin Customer. They were using someone else before they called you, it would pay you well to learn why they left the other guy.
And while lawn care may not be a life and death emergency, people are busy these days. Find you someone who does marketing for a living and ask them what is the number one complaint Customers have. I'll tell you, it's wait time. People do not want to wait. Doesn't matter how dire the circumstance may seem to you, it's your potential Customer's opinion of how quickly they need service that determines if you get paid or not. People do not want to stand in line at the bank, they do not want to stand in line at the grocery store, they do not want to stand inline at the Walgreens. You're not the DMV, people have to stand inline at the DMV, they do not have to stand in line waiting on you to call them back when it suits your schedule.
Every good salesman knows this rule, Every contact is a potential sale, Every potential sale is a game maker. You don't qualify a potential Customer until you have them interested in what you're selling.
But, to each their own.