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Another way of looking at customers who skip cuts

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Oct 20, 2005.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    I charge by the cut. Obviously, those operators who charge by the month or other than by the cut don't have this problem. But I have no intention of moving to any other method of charging. Charging by the cut seems to be working. At least it's easy to sell and doesn't require a long term commitment from the customer and everyone can understand it with a single explanation.

    Now, on to the meat of the topic:

    Skips have been driving me absolutely nuts. I strongly feel that I am getting screwed every time a customer calls to skip a cut. It just drives me nuts. The work is harder in the summer when the grass is growing faster, it's hotter out in the summer, which makes the work seem harder. Then, when we can basically jog behind the mowers and still get a clean cut in the early spring or late fall, the classless customers call to skip a cut or otherwise decrease my revenue stream from mowing their lawn.

    There are basically two options you can choose when dealing with these people. You can offer resistance, either via the threat or the plea, or you can just put up with it.

    If you decide to offer resistance, you run the risk of losing a customer that otherwise would contribute some revenue for most of the season. Just less than we'd like. If you put up with it and do what the customer wants, you make less money from the client, but at least you still make something from the client.

    I will say, that usually when a customer calls to skip a cut in early spring or late fall with bermuda, it is not a problem. The stuff just doesn't grow when we're not within 60 days of the solstice. So if you offer resistance, you may end up with some clients who think you are trying to screw them by mowing their lawn when they don't think it needs it and in spite of the fact that they asked you skip a cut. (Sounds like the perfect ingredients for a cancellation.)

    So I've decided to look at it a little differently. Often times, fast food restaurants will offer specials on hamburgers or whatever that are just too low to make money. Like the Whopper for .99. They are counting on their customers pay an extra .40 for cheese and order a cola and fries with that. And if everyone just ordered the Whopper without any extras, they would have to stop offering the Whopper for .99. But most people order extras so it works.

    I guess my business is no different, really. If everyone were calling in the early spring and late fall to skip cuts, it would be a real problem and we would probably have to charge more per cut or otherwise keep trying to figure out a solution to the problem. But everyone isn't doing this. Less than 10% of my customers are doing this. Probably less than 5%.

    So I think I will just deal with it. It's easier and unless a larger percentage of my customers start doing this, I think I can live with it.

    Bad way of looking at the problem?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. Cigarcop

    Cigarcop LawnSite Member
    Posts: 197

    So when they call to skip a cut, are you offering them the extra cheese or the fries?
  3. alwaysgreener

    alwaysgreener LawnSite Member
    Posts: 52

    "Obviously, those operators who charge by the month or other than by the cut don't have this problem".

    "Skips have been driving me absolutely nuts. I strongly feel that I am getting screwed every time a customer calls to skip a cut"

    You answered your own question.

    I would change your billing to monthly not by the cut... Sounds like your losing lots of revenue by not doing other services on the property. Do a full property maintenance program.
  4. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Senior Moderator
    Posts: 6,074

    I don't think you can compare yourself to the whopper.
    Burger King serves approximately 1,072 customers per day per restaurant, and they have over 11,000 restaurants worldwide.
    You have maybe 200 total customers. It's not the same. Burger King can afford to do this because of their volume.

    We are by the cut also, bill at the end of each month. Our busy time is in the spring, come summer in August when the grass has dried out some, customers will try to skip a cut also. We explain to our customers this way about skipped cuts when we sign them up. Let's say the price per cut is $30.00+ tax. We tell them that in the spring the price really should be more than $30.00 due to the fact that a lot of times that the grass needs double cut, maybe bagged in certain areas and more time will need to be spent on their lawn. Come summer the price stays at $30.00, and we continue to cut weekly unless in a severe drought situation. They accept this because they know their price in the spring was less than it should have been. (that's what they've been told).
  5. Ol'time Lawncare

    Ol'time Lawncare LawnSite Senior Member
    from NJ
    Posts: 497

    I also operate this way, on completion i get payed. The money is always there.I've only had 1 incident in 4 seasons. I've never played the court game. If they can't pay then i don't cut.when they call and say , it don't need to be cut, i tell them , no problem, but next week you will have to pay more! Lets say the cut is 35 , and they skip a week, that next week ill cut and charge 60, providing the grass has really grown, i loss alittle, and the customer thinks they are getting a deal. Nobody wants to sine and 30 page contract these days, they just want a grass cutting. i do nothing at all for free.On commercial accounts tho i use a basic contract . It says,pay me on completion!!! My check is always there!
  6. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116


    It is very much like the burger King deal, in my opinion. I quote a customer $xx amount per cut, with a six cut commitment. Very simple and easy to understand. In other words, easy to sell. The .99 Whopper sign in the window is the same concept...its an easy sale.

    The gamble is that most customers will order something else besides just the .99 Whopper. They know in advance that some customers will order only a Whopper, but they hope that the majority don't. For me, the gamble is simlar. I know that some customers are going to call to skip a cut, but I hope that the majority don't.

    So far, the gamble seems to be working out ok because the vast majority of customers have enough class that they don't call to skip cuts every time they have the chance. Out of 250+ customers on the schedule this fall, only a dozen or so have called to skip a cut or end the season early. Definitely less than 10% and probably closer to 5%. Again, if everyone were doing this, I'd be screwed. But that is not reality.

    As for the lawn requiring extra work when we show up after a skip, that is not a problem because bermuda simply doesn't grow much when it cools down and we are this far from the summer solstice. If the lawn were still growing fast and there would really be extra work on the next visit, I would not hesitate to bring up the possibility of extra charges on the next cut. A threat of this nature is simply not necessary and would not be believable this time of year with bermuda.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  7. alwaysgreener

    alwaysgreener LawnSite Member
    Posts: 52

  8. kc2006

    kc2006 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,442

    Skipping cuts isn't normally that bad for me. But in the fall when it starts to slow down I normally tell the people that I'm there for the leaves mostly. If I don't cut it this week and mulch the few leaves up then next week they'll be billed hourly which could be alot more money compaired to the 25 dollars for the cut.

    But I'm going to start doing what Jodi said. That made good sense and I think the new customers I pick up next year will agree 100% with it.
  9. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Senior Moderator
    Posts: 6,074

    Yep the concept is the same, but the volume isn't. If Burger King was serving 200 customers per week, do you think they would still sell their whopper for 99 cents?

    Sure we do other services to each property, but we bill each of them separately whether it's hedge maintenance, mulching, aerations, seeding etc.
  10. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,062


    You know I agree with what is above.....

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