Difficult Customers

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by landscaper22, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 849

    I just wanted to give my input about other threads I have been reading concerning difficult customers (sometimes called PITAs)
    It has been mentioned that too many people are complaining about PITAs on this site. I do agree to some extent. Many times a difficult customer just has a TYPE A personality. If you combine that with the fact that they are ignorant about proper lawn care, it can be a headache for you. Many of these customers are in the higher income areas. I find that once they see they can trust you they back off, and let you do your job. Just try to educate them. These customers want their properties managed, not just mowed. When I price these jobs, I realize they are going to want me to do all the smallest details to keep the property at its best. You have to take that into consideration before giving your price. Many of the rants may be because of this.
    That being said, there are still some people in this world that are difficult to deal with. I have been dealing with the public for 9 years. 5 years in lawn care and 4 years before starting my business in retail management. This type of person always wants something for nothing. When you run across these customers, there is not much you can do to make it better. Even if you priced the job correctly, sometimes you get way more than you bargain for. Yes, we are here to provide a service to the public. And yes some LCOs seem to be more concerned with how many customers they can drop rather than how many they can pick up.
    But, I say it is your business how you run your business. Everyone has a different tolerance level when it comes to difficult people. There is no sense in having those couple of accounts that you dread going to week after week and month after month. What ever the reason may be. It took me some time to realize that you are better off just letting them go. I learned how to play their game though, and it works. I am never rude. One thing you don't want to do is be disrespectful to them, because that is not the way to conduct a business. Just be matter of fact and stand your ground.
    I have probably had 3-4 really difficult customers over my 5 years of lawn service. I believe all of them have been older widows.
    The main problem is they are from the old school when everything cost a dime. Also they don't believe in the work smarter not harder thing...no, if you are not servicing their property in the most difficult boot camp style, then you are not doing a good enough job. This is just the era they are from. They had a difficult life.
    I had this lady one time stop me while I was blowing her driveway (now she was one that hardly ever had a kind word to say about anyone), and she said she didn't like blowers. I said, what do you mean??? She said all blowers do is move stuff from one place to another. She said a broom would do a better job.....:dizzy: I probably looked stunned for a few moments before I said well I purchase top of the line commercial equipment to help me provide quality services as quickly as possible. I then told her I would be glad to use a broom and sweep for entire driveway or do anything else for that matter if she would pay me $xx per hour. (I can't remember the exact amount I quoted her, but she quickly said, no, no, the blower is fine!:) I mean you can take comments like that sometimes, but when the same customer stops you week after week to complain about nothing, it gets old. One quick way to put an end to it though is to raise their price. This type of customer will not usually go for that. (I'm sorry Mrs. Smith, but I am going to have to start charging you $7 now instead of $5). :cry:
    When I get a call from a potential customer I always try to find out who was servicing the property before. If it is a company you know has a good reputation, it should throw up a red flag. Then find out why they are no longer servicing the property. Sometimes there may just be a personality clash, or a misunderstanding. You just have to go with your gut feeling....
    I could go on and on. I didn't intend on boring you for this long. I do sometimes enjoy reading the PITA threads though. It gives me a good laugh when I have had a bad day. It makes you feel better to know that someone else has the same type of customer you do. Let's keep it professional though. I know sometimes we want to tell them all a few choice words. But that will not get you anywhere. Again, sorry for the long post, just getting that off of my chest. :)
  2. B. L. Landscaping

    B. L. Landscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 176

    I have to agree there are some PITA customers but some are just old school and they will change with time just be patient.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    I don't run into too many true PITA's anymore...I typically chat a potential client up first and on the rare occasion I feel they might be too difficult to work with, I'll pass on them. The ones that insist on Fridays don't seem to understand that there's a whole lot of crap that can go wrong M-Thur that throws the schedule off.

    Since I've switched to flat rate billing via credit card, that's basically eliminated the PITA's and any late payment issues.
  4. B. L. Landscaping

    B. L. Landscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 176

    Yes it does seem everyone wants that friday cut but it is not possible I wish I could work fridays only and make the same money.
  5. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 849

    I usually stick to my guns on the Thursday & Friday thing. Everyone wants their property to look great for the weekend. And I understand, but it is not a very practical request. On Friday I service my 2 largest accounts. It is my busiest day. Those 2 accounts will take all day during the summer. Both of these customers requested Friday. And well, if the money is there, I will bend. Same thing with Thursay. I had one particular customer to call about service, and wanted Thursday or Friday. Friday was full. I knew that I would probably be getting 4 other customers out of the deal, because the previous LCO went out of business. So I gave the customers the day they requested (Thursday.) They are all in the same neighborhood so it was worth it. I had to totally re-arrange my schedule, and some other customers were not very happy about it. It paid off for me though. I now have 5 properties all together now in that neighborhood.
    My policy is that I will be servicing your property the same day of the week that I am servicing other customers in your area. If they can't deal with that, well that is one potential PITA that was avoided. But if I see $$ it would be a bad business decision not to break the rule.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    I've never assigned or guaranteed certains days...I never understand how this can be done really. I mean, it rains all day Monday, you're pushed back a day.

    Honestly not many people have requested a certain day of the week. Most of my customers are busy, I don't think they really use their lawn/property that much.
  7. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 849

    I don't guarantee a certain day. But, I do make out assigned schedules. Otherwise I would be running all over town every day and end up going back to the same neighborhood the next day too. So, I may tell my customers in a certain area for instance....I normally service your area on Tuesday. If I get off schedule I will service your property the day before (If I have something planned for Tuesday) or the day after your scheduled day. I do get off schedule sometimes because of rain, or if I get behind doing extra work. Most weeks, however, I stay on schedule. It is a waste of time to travel from town to town each day, and with fuel so high I will not do it. Well, you may have a lot of customers 5-10 miles from your business location. If so, then it is not a huge deal. But my business is spread out over 3-4 towns. I was thinking this morning, right now diesel is $3.20/gal. in my town. Pulling a load my F-250 gets about 10-11 mpg. So, if I am going to travel across town (about 20 miles each way), I better have more than one postage stamp yard to service, or it is not worth the fuel cost. It will cost me $12-13 to travel there and back, not to mention the fuel for the equipment. During the winter I run into this with a couple of customers. If I am charging $30 per visit for this one guy and (this winter at least) it will cost me $15 in fuel, I often ask myself is it even worth $15 to travel 20 min there do 20 min. worth of work and drive 20 min back home again???

    But for me, its all about scheduling. I like to be able to look at my schedule and know what I will be doing two weeks from now. Then I can try to schedule extra landscaping work around my normal routine.

    And in response to your last paragraph, I started running into these customers that requested a certain day once I got into the higher end neighborhoods. It makes sense really. These are the professionals... Doctors, lawyers, etc...and the reason the like Thursday or Friday service is most of them are so busy all week that the only time they have to enjoy the yard is on the weekends. The invite friends and family over for a swim in the pool or for a back yard BBQ. If you cut their property on Monday or Tuesday, it almost needs to be cut again by Saturday (depending on the type of grass of course.) This is why they want it done, but we are not a two day per week business. I just do what I can. But now Fridays are full and out of the question until I can find a dependable employee to get my 2nd crew going.
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Who has to prove what, to whom?

    I used to think that too, that I had to prove myself.
    Over the years that changed.

    Then again maybe some have employees, hey you know if they want to have sex with the next door milf in exchange for cutting her grass with someone else's equipment for free that's fine by me, but just because everybody thinks 'awww it's awrite' doesn't mean it is and I won't stand for this garbage, thou I do understand the meaning of 'everybody does it.'

    I got news for them folks, everybody does NOT do it, just the ones who don't are right few and pretty far in between.
  9. DK lawn care

    DK lawn care LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 763

    How do u do it then if u dont assign days? I assign days but this season it didnt rain alot (thank god). Next season i would like to get more customers and ive been thinking the rain situation (if we get more or less).
  10. HOOLIE

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    I, of course, route my lawns geographically like pretty much everybody does. I just don't make a point to tell customers which day is their day. It just adds unneeded pressure on yourself. We are a small operation, like many others on here are. There are days where we'll stop early so I can go to my sons' soccer practices, or so my wife can go to some function. I don't run a rigid schedule. Someone may get cut late Tuesday one week, and early Wed. the next. Like it matters.

    I just don't run into too many people demanding Fridays...and NoVA is one of the wealthiest areas in the country. The logic that lawyers and doctors are busier M-F than anyone else is flawed...at least around here. Everybody is busy. Most lawyers I know don't work 9-5 M-F :laugh:

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