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What should a residential customer do to get really good service?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Geofferson_Davis, Oct 23, 2003.

  1. Geofferson_Davis

    Geofferson_Davis LawnSite Member
    from z7 NC
    Posts: 11

    I'm not a professional landscaper, but a friend suggested that this forum would be an good place to ask this question.

    As a residential customer, what can I do to make myself a desireable client and get really good service from a professional landscaping company?

    The reason I ask is this. I'm a new homeowner, and for the last few months I've been trying to get a landscaping company to do some minor regrading in my yard, till up the yard, and plant a lawn from seed.

    I've found that a lot of compaines I've contacted seem to have little or no interest in doing this residential work. Most don't call back or say they're not interested. Several have come and looked at the job then "vanished."

    One agreed to do the work but didn't want a written contract (just a written estimate). They had agreed to start about five weeks ago but never showed up. When I call, they continually tell me some excuse and promise to start "next week".

    I suspect that what is going on is that they're keeping my small job on the "back-burner" for a time when they have some downtime between more lucrative commercial jobs.

    As an average homeowner, I can't compete with commercial maintenance contracts. Short of just throwing money away, how can I get better service than this short of attempting to do the work myself? Do people in the industry generally sign contracts and take deposits to ensure that they'll do the job? Are timeframes ever specified in a contract (i.e. work will be complete by X date unless there is more than N inches of rainfall)?

    Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
  2. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Posts: 1,010

    You gotta be kidding me!If they aren't getting back with you or showing up consider yourself lucky that they aren't doing work for you.You've just weeded out some undesirable companies.Keep looking.There are good landscaping and lawn maintanance companies out there.
    You sound like a customer I'd love to have.remember all of this when they give you an estimate and you think the price is outrageous.You really do get what you pay for.Hopefully someone here that's in your area will be able to help you.
    Good luck!
  3. newleaflandscape

    newleaflandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 348

    Ya I agree. Smaller jobs, I have to admit we dont get excited about. Especially the smaller jobs, when the customer acts like the are gnna try to haggle a deal with ya. Alot of times I get customers for those under a thousand jobs. More then half the time they want two grand worth of work for one grand. Nothing pisses me off more. I agree though with nick. Just because its a small job, doesnt mean they shouldnt keep promises. When I do take the smaller jobs, I always promise them when I will be there, and I show up. And alot of times I will tell them that its gnna be four months because I have alot of larger jobs I have to get to first. Most people understand some tell me they are going to look elseware, and that doesnt bother me. I always keep my promises though, thats how you get a bad reputation and you lose your professionalism is when you start breaking promises. If your willing to pay what the job should cost, I cant imagine that you cant find a more professional contractor, good luck.
  4. NCSULandscaper

    NCSULandscaper Banned
    Posts: 1,557

    Where in NC are you located?
  5. Geofferson_Davis

    Geofferson_Davis LawnSite Member
    from z7 NC
    Posts: 11

    Okay, that's very helpful. I may be semi-guilty of that, I'll let you judge.

    In my case, I wrote down a list of stuff that I wanted done (basically, grade, till, seed, install irrigation) and indicated that I would also rely on the landscaper's expertise for recommendations. He came back with an estimate that included sod instead of seed and some additonal work that I didn't request and the cost was about three times what we planned to pay (mostly the cost of two tractor trailer loads of very expensive sod). I politely pointed out that we weren't able to pay that much and asked for a quote sticking closer to the original plan to seed and without as many discretionary extras.

    He came back with an estimate minus the sod and said he could start the following week so I told him he had the job.

    I didn't think of this as haggling, but more as resisting an attempt at "selling up". I do think that if I had agreed to the more pricey job, the delays wouldn't have happened.

    And yes, part of me agrees with NickN that I'm lucky to have avoided dealing with some of these companies.
  6. Geofferson_Davis

    Geofferson_Davis LawnSite Member
    from z7 NC
    Posts: 11

    North Durham, basically in Bahama.
  7. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    If everything your saying about the way you been trying to deal with a REPUTABLE co. is true then ditto what NickN says. I take the small with the large and I try not to put the small jobs off. And if you need 2 truck loads of sod your not that small of a job. Are you sure your not expecting a low price and just haven't found a co. to match what your willing to pay?
  8. Geofferson_Davis

    Geofferson_Davis LawnSite Member
    from z7 NC
    Posts: 11

    That's a good question. Given that we have only received one estimate, I don't have much basis to compare.

    The two trucks estimate included large areas that we hadn't planned to work on. The actual size of the area that needs to be tilled is about 5000 sq feet. The re-grading consists of leveling off some humps and filling some low areas - nothing too major.

    Tell me what you think.

    Grading and Tilling - $1400
    Seed and Straw - $ 350
    Compost and Topsoil - $ 350
    1 Zone Irrigation - $ 700

    Total $3000

    EDIT: my math is bad. 500 sq yards = 4500 sq ft. Corrected sq ft estimate above.
  9. Shuter

    Shuter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,171

    I always make call backs the same day. If after looking at the job I find that I don't have the time or do no want the job, I will tell you right away and try to suggest another company for you. networking like that with my competitors helps keep your company name good around town. My best advirtising is word of mouth.

    If you are not getting call backs or have no shows from companies, they probably are not the best choice to do the work. Ask around your area to find someone by word of mouth.
  10. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    It sounds like a fair price, from what I read I would say on a small job with what you described I would have come in around $3500, but without putting foot on property its only an educated guess at this point. Hang in there make more calls, check references, DON'T make a large down payment and get a start and ending date depending on weather. This is a 1 day job and some co. gonna be glad to get it. And your gonna be happy you waited to get the right co to do the job. Mac

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