Why not "milk" the customer?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Mr. Magpie, Oct 6, 2005.

  1. Mr. Magpie

    Mr. Magpie LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 322

    When on an estimate, and confronted by a penny-pinching, stingy prospective client, why not just agree to do their lawn for the price they seem to need, while spending only the amount of time you want on their property and see if you can retain them?

    My bro and I call this "milking" the customer. And believer it or not, we retain most of these customers..... go figure. They are some of the best customers because they got the price they wanted!, and I gave it to them. I hit them in their G-SPOT and now they are my b*tch! (Even if they finally do cancel due to poor service or quality, at least I got, say, 6 months of good, profitable business out of them, rather than nothing. Right, right???)

    Seriously, I want all of you to inform me on all the reasons NOT to do this, because apprently I am only aware of the reasons TO do this.
     
  2. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    First you can't have customers set the price and second since you agreed to do there lawn you can not just give them "only the amount of time you want on their property" You have to give them the amount of time it takes to perform the job you agreed to. :dizzy: There not paying you for time there paying you there price to have a serviced performed
     
  3. Mr. Magpie

    Mr. Magpie LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 322

    You still haven't said why this practice is detrimental to the biz. What do you have to lose with this philosophy, tell me?

    So you lose them after a month? Or you lose them after 8 months? What's the difference if you were pulling in the same dollar/hour the whole time anyways? And why not try it and see what happens? You might end up retaining them and having a great business relationship that you normally wouldn't have had if you would have pouted and marched away from their property during the estimate.

    See, those of you who pout and stomp away from the penny pinchers are potentially leaving good, solid business on the table. You are underestimating the value of hitting their G-Spots. Are you beginning to see the value of meeting someone's needs?

    Now, if they are also beligerantly or condescendingly trying to lower your estimate, you have every right to place a value judgment on their character and decide whether they might be a PITA or not. But, there is commonly a difference between penny pinchers and PITAs, in my 3 year experience at least.
     
  4. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    let me break your words down and you explain how this will work

    What if there price is $5 and as I said in my original post to you, you don't have the option of deciding how much time to spend. The work determines the amount of time on their property. your forgetting you have a set determined amount of cost and your not going to meet them "agreeing to do their lawn for the price they seem to need"

    Why would you not retain them or it should be they retain you? your mowing at a price they decided they were gonna pay you. You acknowledged it with this sentence "They are some of the best customers because they got the price they wanted!, and I gave it to them." not sure who is the b*tch.
    And this next sentence goes to the part of you did not get what the job was worth but what the customer wanted to pay "Even if they finally do cancel due to poor service or quality, at least I got, say, 6 months of good, profitable business out of them, rather than nothing." So you got paid less than the job is worth and you show cased your crappy work to the neighborhood and that is why its detrimental to your biz.
     
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    Yes that's all fine and dandy but what happens when you're quoting $45 and they only want to pay 30? No doubt they don't set the price, but they are willing to pay NO more than 30, end of deal. I can walk away and I try and see this schitt coming before I go give the estimate (like on the phone). The problem is, go give the estimate and I got time invested! Now from time to time I get REALLY TIRED of the schitt and do exactly what he did:
    - Work for cheap, the labor rate is the SAME. Their money buys time, literally dollars buy minutes: Once their 30 dollars worth of time is up, the ferris-wheel ride is over. I really like the 20-dollar Armitron M-525 All-sport, shock and water resistant digital watch - It is tough, it does NOT break or screw up while I'm working AND it has a chronometer/stop-watch function: You BET I've done many a timed yard.
    Another way to say it is, you get what you pay for.

    H3ll yeah I do this too and it is not milking... Milking is when I sit around doing nothing while they're paying OR charging them for something I did not do - That's milking! In this case, they're only getting what everybody else gets on an x-dollars/hour basis... If they don't pay as much as my higher-paying customers pay, then the results are proportionally less as well. And yes again, more than a few customers are happy with this status quo, all they wanted was a quick-and-dirty (but you gotta watch out for the ones expect cheap AND fancy).

    ...It costs 2 thousand dollars for a paintjob on my car but I can get it done for 600 dollars someplace else! Does the 600-dollar paintjob look as good / last as long as the 2000-dollar one? Come on now...
    Then again, why put out 2k for a 17-year old car if you only plan on keeping it another few years, see what I mean...

    So if the job SHOULD take 45 minutes for me to make it look good but you're only willing to pay for 30 minutes, then I'll do what I can in 30 minutes (yes, it helps to know some cheats/shortcuts to make things look right in the end). The guy who can paint my car for 600 dollars knows this little lesson, too...
     
  6. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    He's not getting payed by the minute he's getting payed by the job WTH- charges by the minute and then watches there watch so they can say your times up off to the next one LMAO
     
  7. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    There is one thing, thou:

    Whether they pay 30 or 45, I bust my tail the entire time their money is paying me for. Of course 30 minutes vs. 60 (yes, $30=$1/minute, then it's 50 cents/minute up to an hour, see how that works) entails a difference in the eventual outcome, but I do not by any means give off a lower quality work during any $45/hour job, plain and simple.

    You gotta love it:
    $30 = minimum charge.
    $30 = 30 minutes, 50 cents/minutes afterwards first hour.
    Second and consecutive hour(s) = 75 cents/minute rounded, give or take a few minutes.

    That's it, and everybody gets what they pay for, fair is fair. Some are willing to pay more, some less.

    I've even explained this to customers, and most of them are cool with it.
     
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    I know what my machine can and will do. Run my mower over your yard ONE time, it takes 30 minutes for an acre. I run over it twice, it looks better and takes 45 minutes. Your choice, which one you want? Quick-and-dirty, or fancy? Regular Unleaded, or Super-high 95 octane?

    Do you always stripe? Personally, I think striping is the biggest waste of time, it is purely cosmetic and can DAMAGE turf, a LOT of brown yards this year I saw came from someone striping... Go figure.
    Oh but you're not milking, oh no! NO, you only charge them AGAIN to Aerate and completely RESEED the entire YARD every YEAR (after YOU ruined it by striping it EVERY week even in 108-degree HOT weather... Oh but since you don't know this, neither does your customer and so that's not milking!)

    ...Striping involves a complete turning around of the machine during which time NO grass is cut and divots CAN happen, then you're paying SO much attention to the stripes you fail to see the decorative light or the sprinkler riser that failed to recede. See, I am NOT responsible for damages in the yard, that breeds a monster you don't even want to meet (or perhaps you've failed to realize how many times a customer got YOU to replace something YOU supposedly broke, yet you can't remember doing it - Yeah LOL, I know a guy who will get you to replace his entire sprinkler system one riser at a time, over several years he's got YOU doing all the work for the same money as it would cost him to cut the grass himself AND replace the risers on that old 'You are responsible for yard damage' basis {It's $50/riser parts+labor, but you replace them for free, right? Cool! }).

    I think folks who fail to see this are losing out on a vital part of business... 90 percent of people out there are NOT rich, they are average Americans earning between 20-40k/year or so and respect hard work, but then maybe they don't care if their yard is full of weeds, can you make it look better for 30 bucks in 30 minutes, yes, or NO?!

    *I* have to say Yes, not them! All you salespeople out there keep thinking the whole game is to get them to say yes, to me that's scamming!
    I hate trying to talk an eskimo into buying an icemaker... If they don't want it, you can either give them what they WANT, or get on down the road to the fancy job which takes even MORE time but of course since some get paid per job, time is of no essence...
     
  9. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,062

    This is an ugly dang subject for me to even get into, especially since I have been 'stirred up' lately. I'm not so sure I should put my 2 cents in at all. But then again, if I don't, who will? And then I carry as much of the blame for not speaking out as the rest.

    I've been at the job of running a business that provides quailty finished work and I've been at it a lot longer than you. I also see what goes on around me very clearly. So I can put up a whole big long list of reasons NOT to do this.

    The best place I can think of to start from is to go off what Mac said and say, you are the one who is the b*tch every time in this sort of arrangement.... good place to build from... First of all, if you are submissive to their prices, who's the b*tch? You are from the get go.

    Then you proceed to try and cut corners to make ends meet on the job. I see this everywhere I look all season. No big deal right? You are coming out somewhat on the job, feeling you are giving them what they are paing for right?

    Well that may be the truth. But you are still the submissive one, bowing to their prices, and sacrificing your quality of work in order to meet that price without going in the hole. It's true you may retain many of them, simply because they do not care how it looks, so long as it's not a jungle, and even if it looks really shotty, they still might remain loyal and keep you slaving for them. Why? Because they are not so sure how hard it will be to find another dummy that is willing to deal with them an do their lawn for them for so little.

    Meanwhile, have you ever stopped for a second to think about what this is doing to your business reputation to be associated with this type of work? No good customer willing to pay you for a quality job is going to seek you out if they associate you with that type of work. None of the neighboring accounts are going to want you either, unless at some point there has been a neighborly discussion where they laughed their azzes off about what a sucker you are... and these neighbors are coming to you seeking the same cheap labor and shotty work.

    Not the kind of stuff you need your business associated with.... but you can sure get covered to your eyebrows in more crap jobs than any man can do.

    The next thing is, you would not believe how neighbors hunt for things to gossip about, things about their neighbors they can complain about and so forth. Bad news travels fast. You just would not believe how often my customers and their neighbors approach me to make a small talk conversation about the neighbor with the trashy lawn, landscape, and/or service provider... and how they wish I could do it so they would quit bringing down the neighborhood. Believe me, if they discuss this with me, they discuss it with everyone they know and everyone like them. Nobody they know, do business with, work with or are related to will ever seek you.

    In addition to this, there will be many of those penny pinchers who are picky control freaks, always complaining about something, always wanting something for nothing, and always trying to squeeze you for everything you're worth to be sure they feel they get more than their monies worth every week. Some of them you will be able to satisfy with your tactics, at a loss to you... and many you will not. Many will expect it to be flawless for $20.... and if it's not, you are history, and they are badmouthing you every chance they get, just because it is their nature.... an of course they will never bring up what they were paying you.

    This sort of stuff will run you in the ground in the long run, because not only do you become a magnet for this type of customer, but one day you wake up in a nightmare, because this is the only class of client you can get.... not to mention the PITA factor involved in dealing with them week to week.

    You post here like you have re-invented the wheel.... but this is nothing new. Actually it's common-place.... And some have learned to even take it a few steps further than you. Many on the local yocals come along behind me and do this very thing.... They lowball me to get the work, knowing full well they are going to milk it and cut every corner they can in order to come out....

    Sometimes the customer learns they get what they pay for, and end up calling me back. Other times, the account is ruined for good, and they expect that pricing from now on. So they either live with the service for the price, or continously go through LCO's in the same price range on a regular basis.... and actually wonder why they can't find anyone who does an acceptable job.

    Still yet, some others will do the mowing for whatever, even if it means a loss, so they have their foot in the door.... and then they RAPE them on billing for the extra services. People eventually get wise to this though. So they hire a guy to mow... who often comes in real low for reasons above.... and then one day he shows for a cut and finds the extras already performed.... and very likely they have turned the tables on both parties, playing them against each other, and playing them for fools. This has gotten bad enough that I have ran into several good accounts in the past few years and they have a strict policy that they do not use the same contractor for more than one task... and often the policy is to not tell you that up front... and other times it's the opposite to help insure they are weeding out the corner cutters.

    Another variable of this is what happened to an account I serviced last year. Lowballer came in low on the whole contract, lawn, landscape, the works... blew me out of the water. So far this year, they have averaged 2 cuts, one whacking, and zero edgings per month.... and absolutely zero other services. The beds have stuff blown all in them and infestation grown up knee high because they haven't touched it....

    Basically, it's all been done...
    And most of it is a detriment to the industry...

    It's no wonder my disclosure of my minimum fees end most of my estimate calls on the spot.
    People expect cheap because this sort of crap out of control.
    Seems the majority here think $35 is the high end maximum to pay for mowing...
    Regardless of the size of the lawn... unless it's several acres.
    And mulch, $50 for a massive load deliverd and installed.
     
  10. QualityLawnCare4u

    QualityLawnCare4u LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,758

    Two simple reasons for me

    1) I tell the client what they will pay, end of conversation.
    2) When I finish a yard I like to stand and admire it and say to myself "dam Danny, you made it look good". Now when I have to start doing crappy cheap work I dont feel good about Ill quit. I dont want people riding by and saying "dang, that quality guy does sh--y work. My reputation is all I have when there is nothing left. When this job becomes about money only (and yes we all have to make a living) and I no longer care about quality its long time to find another job.
     

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