Customer base "aging"

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by lakesregionscapes, Jan 26, 2007.

  1. lakesregionscapes

    lakesregionscapes LawnSite Member
    Messages: 147

    HI everyone.
    Having been in business for over ten years, we're starting to see one or two accounts each year that just seem to find the grass greener elsewhere (pun intended)... Usually we never loose customers, except but death or sale of the property. We culled out a few some years (and "fired" one association last summer because they demanded $10'000 service for a $5'000 contract), but it seems like there's been 2-3 lately that just politely say "love your work, but we're having someone else do it this year". No complaints, and we're still getting raves from other accounts - along with a few who say we don't charge enough, and several who whine we charge too much.

    I'm speculating that human nature just makes some folks grow uncomfortable with the status quo and they have a visceral need to try something else, and then there's undercutting by start-up companies which are many around here lately. And associations seem to have new board members every few years that must reinvent the wheel each time.
    Starting with a new account it is usually easy to impress them with quality service, but after years of comparable efforts, it becomes hard to hit the "wow" point without undertaking some big project.

    Have any of you observed a certain turnover that doesn't seem to tie to lesser service or overpricing specifically, but some "aging" factor after 8-10 years of service?

    Just wondering, while waiting for spring....
  2. jeffex

    jeffex LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,933

    grass is always greener crowd!! its just like a new girlfriend everything is hot and heavy at first and then things settle in to the same old thing. Keep in contact with them so the door is always open for them to come back after they find out that the cheaper price or hot to trot new guy weren't as good as what you provided
  3. StBalor

    StBalor LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 798

    Usually when this happens to me it's because a family member or friend of the family has started cutting lawns and such. They quickly learn that a family member is not so reliable and some will come back. But then some are to embarrassed to come back.
    I have also noticed these things tend to even themselves out. you lose 1 and you gain when shortly there after.
  4. StBalor

    StBalor LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 798

    I also forgot to add, in my experiences customers you have had a long and good working buisiness relationship with. do not tend to be as quick to switch to someone else just because they are offering a slightly cheaper rate. But they will switch to give a family member the job.
  5. godzilla

    godzilla LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 400

    One of my closest friends has some lawns which he has maintained for well over 20 years. Somebody else I know has some lawns that he has maintained for over 35 years (SEVERAL different owners).
  6. lawnpro724

    lawnpro724 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,201

    I haven't had that kind of a problem yet but what does happen is that their are so many people mowing these day's that when were in a neighborhood mowing there are 2-3 others mowing too. One guy mows a house next to my customer and you know neighbors talk, we'll one day I was asked by my customer why I was charging him so much. He said the guy mowing next door did a decent job and charged alot less than me. He had been a good customer for several years and wanted me to do it for what his neighbor was paying, now I have been doing his lawn for several years without a problem until now. I told him the other guy probably just does it part time for some extra money and doesn't have insurance, pay workers comp, unemployement, and so on. I was charging him $30 wk and that was pretty low for the time it took and this guy was charging $20 for the same size lawn. Needless to say I lost this customer to what I consider lowballing.
  7. jeffex

    jeffex LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,933

    i don't think too many of us stand a chance of keeping our lawns if someone is charging $20 in a neighborhood where $30 WAS the going rate. Certainly not if they do a good job. Thats enough of a difference to make most at least give the guy a try. I have battled the low ballers and start ups by defending my territory pro actively. I think my customers owe me a call if a low baller gives them a quote. When they call I ask if that person will be able to take care of ALL the services I provide for them and not just mowing. I have multiple lawns on each street so if I loose one I may risk loosing them all because as you say, neighbors talk. To help protect my territory my pricing strategy is to look at each customer as a total price for the full range of services. Mowing , shrub trimming leaf removal, gutter cleaning , seeding, etc. The only price that customers shop is mowing. You can make up alot of profit by just selling an aeration and seeding job . I raise my mowing price very slowly but make up my profit what I charge for the other services that customers forget what you charge last year. From the first contact in the spring I look at that customer as $xxxx for the season and not $xx per cut. I also watch my back by engaging in conversations with any new start ups I see. Just like the newcomers to lawnsite they just don't know what to charge. If I can convince them to charge the going rate then at least I will compete with them on service and not price.
  8. billsdepot

    billsdepot LawnSite Member
    Messages: 24

    The beginning of each new landscaping year what I do is send out a letter to customers who have left me in years past for one reason or another asking for there business back. I will offer some type of discount on a cleanup or trimming with the signing of a one year contract. I have gotten some accounts back this way. I have found that they are embarassed to call me back after they left me because the grass wasn't greener on the other side of the fence.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    That's a good idea...had not thought of doing that. I am sure many customers that cancel over price would be reluctant to resume service with you, figuring there might be some hard feelings.

    I had one ex-customer on a street where I have 5-6 customers and he came out back in April and begged to come back, admitted he left to save $5 and the new LCO ran over his sprinker 4 separate times and generally did a messy job. Funny thing was this guy's lawn was pretty difficult and I had underpriced it originally, so I told him it would be an $8 increase over the basically he started back with me paying $13 per cut more than with the previous LCO...
  10. lakesregionscapes

    lakesregionscapes LawnSite Member
    Messages: 147

    We have had customers come back - one notably was getting anxious about our not getting the mulch done in time for a family memorial service one spring and had another company come in (we would have made it). We let go graciously, kept up friendly communications at random encounters in town, and the following spring they were back, anticiapating a price increase because it was a "renewed" account. They send citrus every year for Chrsitmas, and rave to anyone who will listen. Only once has an account loss been accrimonious - and we fired them....

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