Broken Sprinkler Head... Dropped a troublesome customer today....

This morning I got the text I've been waiting for. Not necessarily, but I've been waiting to drop this customer for so long, I don't know why I didn't do it earlier.

Customer text me insisting I use a 21" Mower on her lawn. She says my "walk behind mower" is breaking her sprinkler heads throughout the yard. She also told me before I started the previous company kept breaking them. A little more details; she's been a pain in the butt since day one. She leaves 100 ft. of water hose throughout the back yard and expects me to pick it up and mow under it each trip. Not only that she's a bi-weekly with her St. Augustine growing to where it needs to be cut weekly. Did I mention she runs a day care and wants a text before I'm headed out each morning? I should have took the last clue when she said the last guy "quit showing up."


My response, mam, I'll send someone out to fix the sprinkler heads this one time. But in the future we are not responsible for your broken sprinkler heads improperly installed, not installed at the correct depth, and especially heads that are not retracting back into the ground. On top of that, we will no longer be able to service your lawn. I will use a 21" mower, on your lawn, (UNDER THE CONDITIONS) that you pay for an hours worth of labor for using the push mower on your corner lot. (Time it takes me to use a 21" on it INCLUDING moving the water hose) at $50.00 an hour.

Needless to say, I haven't heard back from her. She'll be finding someone on CL to mow it for cheap.
 
I think she set the record for my worse customer of the year.

A.) Has toys and 100 feet of hose left laying the yard.
B.) Needs to be texted before servicing her lawn.
C.) Only a 21" Mower can be used.
D.) Edging the sidewalk can only be done with a stick edger because of HOA. (Bogus I work for HOA in your neighborhood, not to mention I edge your neighbors lawn with a trimmer.)
 

olajoe808

LawnSite Member
Location
Zone 5b
Lots of people run day cares from home. Don't let one ruin your day. You will find some run a tight ship. Then others have you feeling like am i supposed to be reporting this and if i don't can i be liable.

Always walk the site and identify the problem areas. A little weeping here, broken head here, etc and point those out. If nothing is done work around it. If the other guys are breaking heads, and now you clearly there's some design deficiencies. But things should be clear prior to service. If things are marked and you cause the damage vs unmarked and it could be damaged by any other service provider they either fix it or continue to have the same issues.

Day cares can be a pot of gold, and as you experienced, a costly pain.
 

LawnMowerMan2003

LawnSite Senior Member
And I really hate dropping customers, anytime, but especially right now, since I am trying to build my customer base up. When I finally get a 30" or larger mower, and somebody asks me to mow the lawn with a 21" I'm going to say "I can mow it with a 21" but it will costs more", just like if somebody asks me to bag, when I could have mulched it. I quoted a guy $65 for his overgrown lawn (he lives on a cul de sac too) and then he asked me to rake up the clippings! I told him it would costs more to do that, but it wasn't necessary, because my mower would mulch 90% of it anyway, and he didn't need any more convincing.

The guy I dropped was, ironically, my very first customer. First, I underbid the lawn, because I had not mowed any in the area, and I was still trying to determine pricing (until this year I haven't mowed for a few years and prices have been increasing). So I gave him an estimate for $30. Then the customer decides to come out and watch me the whole time, which I don't really like, but it would have been OK if he didn't ask me to do things over. He asked me to edge deeper and wider, so then the lawn ends up taking longer, and he asked me to lower the mower down to 2. I don't know how many inches that is, but I usually cut between 3 and 4; I think he just wanted it shorter so he could wait longer to call me back. I mowed his yard a few times, and then one day I just decided I'm not going back. I know, I should have tried raising the price first, and discussing it with him, but I really didn't think it was going to work.

Now I have a second customer that I'm wondering about. She complained that her previous lawn service wasn't showing up. I mowed her lawn the first time, and put her on the schedule, like she asked. I tried to call her and got voice mail so I left a message, and didn't hear back from her for several more weeks. Then I got a text from he that said "I haven't heard from you in a while, do I need to look for another lawn service?" So I told her I left a message and then she admits to changing phones (but somehow never thought to call me and tell me).

Fortunately, the lawn had at least been mowed once (during the month or so that went by) and it wasn't horrible, but then I scheduled her for 2 weeks again, and when I called her she said the lawn didn't need it yet. Now, I do live in a pretty hot area, and we don't usually get much rain, so the lawns don't always need mowing in 2 weeks, especially with water restrictions, depending on the grass condition. But then on week 3 I text her again and she says she needs to wait till the 1st to get paid.

OK, so I sent her another text to confirm tomorrow, and now she tells me that her husband lost his job so they can't afford it until next week. I just said OK. I could have offered to mow it now, so it doesn't get higher, but then I might never get paid. If I get to the lawn and it's going to take longer I'm going to tell her I have to charge more, so I might lose another customer, but how much am I possibly making off customers that wait a month to mow anyway (for a small lawn). I'll go out of business before I can build enough customers at $45 a month each!
 
Sounds like a good drop. We had a couple that were a huge relief to lose.

We had an old lady that called us to complain why we were not at her house every tuesday at 9:30am sharp. Like sharp sharp. 9:31 AM I get the call and always wanted the push mower bagged. We actually went to dinner to celebrate her dropping us lol.
 

LawnMowerMan2003

LawnSite Senior Member
Sounds like a good drop. We had a couple that were a huge relief to lose.

We had an old lady that called us to complain why we were not at her house every tuesday at 9:30am sharp. Like sharp sharp. 9:31 AM I get the call and always wanted the push mower bagged. We actually went to dinner to celebrate her dropping us lol.

LOL. I have one customer that asks for specific times; I understand he is busy, but I finally asked him to at least give me a 30 minute window, because I don't want to be late and what if I'm mowing a lawn before his and it takes an extra 20 minutes, for whatever reason?
 
^^ Exactly. I try get AM/PM windows. We will get it done in the day assigned. Rain delay is pushed to next day, simple stuffs.

I had one that was well calling me asking where we were and the truck pulled up mid call lol. "oh here they are, nevermind" lol.
 
I've left ticked off before telling myself I'm dropping her. Winded up keeping her for the money. I guess I should preach my word, "some customers just aren't worth it." Now I'm glad I'm done with her this time. I told her what I did for a reason, I know she isn't willing to pay $50+ for me to push mow it. Now I feel relieved. She just called me, "So you mean to tell me you aren't going to service my lawn in the middle of the season?" "Yes mam, that's what I mean, I can recommend you to someone else, but I can assure you they aren't going to "Push mow" it for the same price neither.

LawnMowerMan, this customer is just like yours was. I swore to myself over, over, and over again that she was just trying to make me spend more time on her lawn each time because she wasn't making more babysitting. If I finished in 20 minutes, she added something to make it take longer. If I finished in 45 minutes to an hour it was all good. A minute shorter she wanted to knit pick and find something else. I think she had a goal to make me take longer on her lawn then I should be spending to stay in business. Not anymore. And don't feel bad about dropping them. I'm dropping them like fly's. I had another one call me, I went out for a one time-cut that was waist high grass I triple charged them for. They said they wanted "bi-weekly" from now on out. I put them on the schedule. Come scheduled date, one lost their job and said they wanted to skip. They called me back a month later wanting me to mow once again. I did it. Same thing this month, they skipped then just called me this morning. I told him NO SIR. I had equipment issues on a BRAND NEW mower after servicing your lawn and it's not worth it for me to service your lawn just to repair my mower afterwards. My first "full time" year, one of the most important things I learned is "Some customers just aren't worth it."
 
All this being said, this is an exact reason I was thinking about switching to weeklies only next year. All the weekly customers I have, I have NOT ONE, absolutely ZERO issues with. My equipment runs much better after servicing their lawns also.
 

AI Inc

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Southern NH
10 % of customers you will never make happy , and neither will anyone else. Another 10% you will never make money on , and neither will anyone else.
Avoid them both like the plague.
 

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