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Done with full Service customers...Rant...

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by SouthernYankee, Jan 17, 2006.

  1. SouthernYankee

    SouthernYankee LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 789

    I have this customer, Large estate type yard. I do a full service package on this yard which includes all the shrubs, lawn, and weeding. The owner always tells me how happy she is with all of the work. Fast Forward.

    She had the house on the market for the last 4 months and was in the process of closing the deal. The last service I provide is on November and she tells me that she needs me to trim the Palm trees in the back, no big deal. So anyways, I go to her house 2 times in December and both times she tells me that the yard doesnt need to be done. So I tell her fine I will do it in January.

    Then she calls me right before christmass and tells me that she will not need my services because she has sold the house. She is nice about it and tells me that I did a great job.

    So I send her my last invoice in again, (its only one service charge) and I dont get paid. So I send it the next month and I get it back today.

    She writes me a long letter telling me that she will not pay me because I never trimmed her palms and that she had to hire someone else who charged her $200.00 to do it. Ready for this...She tells me that I now owe her $200.00 and that I should send her a payment, but she told me 2 times not to service her yard and then sells the house. Also she never made any attempt to contact me about this issue.I find this very funny .

    Has anyone else had problem with full service accounts? I find people who have full service are giving me the most problems, so I am going to stop doing full service and do a as need basis. :realmad:
  2. Jpocket

    Jpocket LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,278

    she either gives you the $200.00 or nothing. Not the other way around. Tell her she must be out of her mind, and if she wants to press the issue you WILL take her to court period.:mad:
  3. Gatewayuser

    Gatewayuser LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,734

    Maybe I'm a little confused were you suppose to prune in Dec. and she told you not to or you just did'nt. But either way she was going to have to pay someone, why does'nt she see that.
  4. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,403

    The single largest cause of cancellations that I hear of is this "full service" type arrangement, where the basic agreement is "I'll handle it" for a set payment per month or week or whatever. The idea is that you get paid enough to cover your time no matter what happens, so anything that they want done within reason you do. When things are going good it's great, because you're making money year round and income is even and the customer gets a nice looking yard w/o any fuss.

    But it causes a lot of misunderstandings and miscommunications as to what is included and what isn't. Even when you spell it out in a contract ("shrubs to be pruned every month") that leaves a whole lot to each party's interpretations. Just what constitutes "pruned", a touch up and shaping or a major cut-back that could take 5 times as long to do and require hauling off a lot of cuttings? "keep planting beds weed-free" seems simple, but even that leaves a lot to interpretation. Weeds pop up constantly, do you hit them every time you're there, or is once a month or so sufficient?

    In this case, I would just guess that when she says "the lawn doesn't need it" she meant just the lawn itself and didn't mean the palms didn't need pruning, so she was ticked that you never got to them. If that's the case, and it's hard to tell from the limited info, then she has a point. She was wrong not to immediately bring it to your attention or ignore a first invoice, however. But hey, people like this (lazy, rich, pampered) are often babies emotionally and used to getting their way.

    Not that this is your situation, but so many guys think these high end customers are idiots, willing to pay you not to show up in the winter, or, like I witnessed next door just today, to show up and mow air and blow off the driveway for $40. Usually someone who has done well enough in life to have full-service lawn care is savvy enough to eventually figure out they're overpaying, or that perhaps there's a better way to do it. Some people are also just instinctively uncomfortable with unnecessary work being done just to collect a check in the winter, yet they don't want to let you just take the week off if they feel they're paying for your time.

    They always remember the times you had it easy, they always forget the weeks in the Spring when you had to do extra work for your monthly check.

    Pay-as-you-go leaves little room for these misundertandings, though I admit it may not maximize income in the short run. If you want more work done, you pay more. I feel the value in it is in the long run, with a much lower attrition rate for customers, which allows you to concentrate more on the work and less on selling and obtaining replacement customers. It also is less upsetting than having falling-outs periodically with customers.

    My first employer in the biz was really into his annual "one price" contracts, sometimes he did well with it, but his turnover rate was sky high and he was out of the business in a few years. These high end customers (one was a $4.7 million mansion way back in 1992) felt they owned him and he was basically on "retainer".
  5. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,569

    So did you trim the palms or not? If not it sounds like she has a legitimate beef with your service maybe. As someone else stated, she clearly ask you to do them and when you showed up for "service" in Dec I think it was also very clear she was referring to the lawn not needing service not the palms.
  6. cantoo

    cantoo LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,910

    Tell her you need her new address to mail her the check. Then go to the house and cut down every darn tree off at the ground. Git r done.
  7. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Posts: 8,745

    I would do something similar to this as well

    To bad you couldn't put a lien on that house that she soldpayup
  8. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,899

    I only do full service accounts. I operate on a pre pay system I have had two accounts cancel in the last 3 years both of which swore they had overpaid me. I sent both clients payment histories and never heard from them again. If its not written down it never happened (another mantra of mine). I document everything, get a customer preferences sheet filled out in the beginning, I have a performance agreement and a business practices outline( explaining to them I sell time). I also do a 12 month spreadsheet outlining my estimate of the time needed to service their home. On hourly accounts (anything over 1,000 per month) I get a 1,200. retainer just like an attorney. Things rarely go bad but if they do I'm covered. It also sets a precedence from the beginning of working with a professional company. Full service is a different animal, but those who can afford it are rarely effected by the economy so it is steady and not so much competition. You do need to learn when to pick your battles. Friday I had a long time customer swear we cut back some Deer grass too far and killed it. I'm not going to get in a pissing match about about 45$ worth of plants on a 900 per mo account. We replaced them same day, she is happy, I have already received her January payment and we move on.
  9. SouthernYankee

    SouthernYankee LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 789

    The lady never told me that she wanted me to cut the palms until after the last service call. Then when I returned she told me not to service the whole property on two occasions because it did not need it.

    The week I am going to service the property, she calls me and leaves me a nice message telling me she sold the house and wouldnt need my services anymore.

    Then I get the nasty message. I would have gladly had done the palms, if I was able to actually service the property.
  10. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,372

    I don't understand this line ^^^^^

    are you saying you've got accounts that you're spending 1000 hours / month on?? As in 25 hours / week??

    I'm not being sarcastic, or doubting you, just wondering if these are houses, or if you're talking commercial stuff too?? Or am I just miss understanding the line here??

    Also, I'm the same way about your $45 problem. If you just fix stuff, you'll be rewarded. Better than losing the account. As ong as it's within reason.

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