Clients and Contracts

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Turfdude, Jan 6, 2002.

  1. Turfdude

    Turfdude LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,899

    I have a few clients who must not understand their contracts. My basic contract call for a spring clean-up, weekly maintenace April-November and a fall clean-up. We clean beds only during the 2 clean-ups unless requested by clients, and in the fall, we charge by the manhour for leaf removal. Most clients are still weekly, but a few go to 2 weeks.

    Client #1 sends me a letter "Since when does a $XX.XX mowing become a $YY.YY mowing w/ leaf removal, or even a $ZZ.ZZ leaf removal only charge?" Actually this is the jist of the 2 page letter from the client. I wrote them back, including a copy of signed contract hi-lighting the leaf charges, etc. Let her know she asked all beds to be cleaned out both times and that we spent a lot more time and effort cleaning up the leaves rather than just mowing. I guess there is no way to just tell them to @@@@-off.

    Client #2 comes home last week as we're finishing his clean-up. Says that his town had finished clooecting leaves DEC. 15 (which was too early), so he and his wife had done a "clean-up" prior to that. Now it wasn't a large clean-up as 3 of us were there for only 1 1/4 hours and of course had vacuumed leaves into truck. We did fill approx 2 1/2 16'X20' tarps (Z won't fit through 38" gate). Now he will get his bill w/ a letter that if he did his clean-up, that he should have either called me, or cancelled contract for year.
    I still have at least 40 clean-ups left and 40 more that may go until spring at clients preference. I just don't know if these people are stupid, ignorant, or both. The majority of my clients are really appreciative of our service and professionalism. Maybe its just me, but I keep track of complaints and compliments in the clients file in my software program. If the client becomes a real pain in the a$$, I send them a cancellation via certified mail. This does not happen that often.
    The above client #1 will not receive a renewal this year, and #2 will only get one if services are paid in full w/ no note of dissatisfaction. If his place looked reasonable clean to me, I would have just let it go until spring instead of doing it last week.


    Thanks for letting me vent!
  2. fivestarlawnken

    fivestarlawnken LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 438

    Lot of cleaning up to do I see.In a couple of diff. areas!
  3. LoneStarLawn

    LoneStarLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,415

    80% in the US are stupid or ignorant. IMHO
  4. Atlantic Lawn

    Atlantic Lawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Outer Banks NC
    Messages: 950

    I use contracts on 90% of my customers, only had two problems this year. I dumped one who was always a slow payer, with a horrible piece of property, she only wanted it cut every other week. When I canceled her she had the nerve to say I was letting the lawn get too long! The other lady said her grandson was going to take over after we did the leaf clean up, along with about a half acre of pine straw that was 6 inches deep.He was ready to take over after the tough stuff was done.I'm sure she'll call in July when it gets hot and say her grandson is thinking about goin' back to school.
  5. beck

    beck LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 455

    two of my favorite sayings:

    "You can't fix stupid" and "Never argue with an idiot"

    called a customer that is a little behind on his payment. For the 4 time he asked me how much it would be to remove his bushes in front of his house and when can i get to it. For the 4th time I have told him $250. And asked where my check was for the previous work, then i will do the bushes. Does he really think that I will do more work for him when he still owes me $170.

    Then another family that owes me money wants me to go do their parents leaves. I'll get right on it.

    I had one lady ask why it was more money to do leaves, but when i had called her about it, she had witnessed the extra work we did and said disregard her note.

    plan for contracts and 12 month payment plan for 2003.
  6. plymouthvaliant73

    plymouthvaliant73 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 167

    I love this Judge Judy line:

    "Beauty fades, stupid is forever."
  7. fshrdan

    fshrdan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 142

    Turfdude, it sounds to me like your contract would be like my pay-per-cut. Why don't you take all your cuts for the year, add on the spring and fall clean-ups, then divide it by 9 or 12 months. This way the customer can do a better job of budgeting, and you have a more consistent cash flow.

    Alot of people are strapped for money this time of year, and this might be at the root of some of your complaints. If people have a consistent and reliable bill coming in every month, then billing questions are one less thing they can complain about.

    There's nothing worse than doing a quality job for someone, they are very happy with your work, and then they get an unexpected bill. Money issues will kill that relationship faster than anything, and the quality of your work suddenly doesn't weigh in as much. It's easy to blame the customer when they call about a bill, but when I get that kind of call it means that I failed somehow in communicating with them. Why don't you take a look at your contract and see if you can't make it more communicative and see where the shortcomings are. Just my 2 cents...
  8. They're not so stupid, they just think that you are.

    fshrdan may be on track about it being a communication problem. But it seems some customers just live to give you grief.

    I like your idea of tracking complainers. Do you keep them informed of their status? I was thinking of something on their bill like "customer satisfaction index" But really it would be your evaluation of them!

  9. Turfdude

    Turfdude LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,899

    Thank you guys for your feedback.
    Sometimes it just feels good to vent. We service about 225 accounts this way so its always less than 5% that actually complain. I do go over the contracts w/ the client the first year and do ask them as to their preference for leaf removal (weekly or biweekly, etc). I also inform them that we usually do the cleaning of the beds w/ the last visit (some still aren't done) as it takes awhile to clean them thoroughly (even w/ 6 6200's and 7000's). We don't really offer an equal payment plan as many accounts receive mulching, pruning, annual program and fertilization program too and we only have a 4-6 week "slow period".
    We do have some of our application clients submit a pre-pay for this service. Then the only other bill they'd receive would be for an authorized optional grub or fungus treatment.

    Thanks again.

  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    I will only add that we handle this a bit different. All of our 150 clients are year-round. But only about half of them are full-service customers. That is, we do more than just lawn mowing (including leaf raking and clean-ups).

    I just figure out how much work we're going to have to do in the winter. I can look at the size of the trees, etc. in their lot and pretty much figure out how many leaves there will be, etc. Then I just give them a flat, monthly rate. They pay the same monthly rate all year. Then, there is no arguing the bill, ever. They know they'll be paying $X per month all year. I make it very clear when they sign up and I follow up with a letter.

    Then, this removes any misunderstanding on their part regarding any monthly bills they get. And as long as I get on-time payments, the only concer is MY performance, which is how I like it. As long as we perform, things go smoothly.

    Now I don't know your situation. This may not work everywhere. But it works well here. Just thought I'd mention it.

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