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Reducing Customer Churn

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Jun 25, 2004.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

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

    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.?.?.?.?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. Trevors Lawn Care

    Trevors Lawn Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,180

    Havnt lost a customer yet...whether it be weed n feed or rain or cheaper labor.

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

  3. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Senior Moderator
    Posts: 6,074

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

    GrassBustersLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 983


    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!

  5. GrassBustersLawn

    GrassBustersLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 983


    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.

  6. yz250fpilot

    yz250fpilot LawnSite Member
    Posts: 168

    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? :)
  7. Lawn-Scapes

    Lawn-Scapes LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,810

    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...
  8. DFW Area Landscaper

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

    ++++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.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  9. qualitylandscaping

    qualitylandscaping LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,581

    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!
  10. jajwrigh

    jajwrigh LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Martinsville, IN
    Posts: 1,405

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

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