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How to limit damage with customer

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by ACutAboveNC, Jul 28, 2007.

  1. ACutAboveNC

    ACutAboveNC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 88

    I acquired an account about 2 years ago. The property is backyard only because the front is maintained by an lco that does the fronts of all the homes in the neighborhood. The house is in an upper middle class neighborhood but the backyard landscape was more fighting for a landfill. The customer wanted a complete overhaul of her backyard but did not want to spend it all at once. We first started out by building a row of nelly's for her privacy since she lives near a busy road. Then we put in all of her foundation plantings.... azaelas, roses, shrub trees and wax myrtles. This was intended to be a 2-3 year plan for her backyard. Remember the whole money thing, well apparently she has grown a new itch and she wants her entire backyard dug up and replanted because she is saying that we are not providing her with an adequate enough landscape in the process. Remember she said she was on a budget from the beginning and we kept in contact with her for the past 2 years. She is one of my best customers. She baked us cookies and gave us drinks. WE have done everything in our power to make her happy. Explaining every step to her and being forthwrite with her on everything. She hired a landscape architect that is going to rearrange the landscape. My business partner, who is my mom, has 30 + years of landscaping experience in the area and is very knowledgable when it comes to landscapes. We both feel very betrayed by this. It was completely out of the blue but we have an idea of what the cause was and that is her new boyfriend. This guy, who was married to a botonist and aparently makes him the foremost expert on plants in the world, made us seem like we were chumps in his eyes and that we were below his standards. This guy moved into her house and started bossing her around and made her believe that we were the enemy. I have built my company around a very strong reputation of a customer orientated business. I make them feel like they are number 1 and that we will do whatever it takes to make them happy. I have created a masterpiece and it seems like someone is going to come by with whitewash and paint over it. There are more issues here as well. They recently built 4, 1+ million dollar homes in her backyard that look directly into her house. This is were we planted the neelys and wax to create a border. Well the lco next door comes in and puts in 20 ft neelys on a 4 ft hill of clay and loam and overshadow her existing landscape. Then on top of that there silt fence breaks about half a dozen times and mud flows through her backyard for the past year and she has finally given up the fight but they destroyed part of her turf and horse shoe pits that we built for her. I have given up trying at this point and just making peace and maintaining the property and being a professional about it. We were devestated when we got the news and have been doing everything we can to appease her. We even rebuilt an entire drain on the side of her house at cost because a contractor destroyed it with a bobcat and messed up about 1000 dollars worth of work that I did at cost. I can not believe the outrages I have suffer =) BTW anyone get that one?
  2. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    There's your problem right there, since when do owner-operators accept this?
    Translation: She thinks of you as her lawn boy.

    Once they start with inviting me inside the house or offering me drinks / cookies, there's the writing on the wall.

    Yup, that's the inevitable end result, they almost always hire someone else.
    The SAME people who never had a dime to their name suddenly one day spring out of bed and hire someone that has to be costing 10-100 times what you were charging. Wow, miracle of miracles, maybe they won the lottery...

    This crap has happened to me more times than I care to remember.
    Maybe one day I'll ask one 'why are you writing on the wall?'
    Just to find out what makes them do it, more than anything else.
  3. ACutAboveNC

    ACutAboveNC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 88

    The whole baking cookie things is her way of being nice. She is a close friend of my business partner and this all came out of right field to us. She has always had money but is a single woman supporting her and her new boyfriend. She likened switching companies to changing hair dressers. It is quite disturbing to be compared to a hair dresser. But, I am ok with the whole situation because we still billed out about 15k worth of work with only a few thousand left on the table. I can live with this because we still maintain the property but she will no longer be recieving the service that she once had before and unfortunately it will reflect in her beds. I spend about 15-20 min a week watering in her shrubs by hand and that will no longer happen. Neither will the weeding or the debris pick up in the beds. She was v ery clear to stay out of the beds so we will no longer be doing that part of the service. It really hit home how deceptive and mean people can be to one another. One day they are your best friend and the next they screw you in the back because someone made an offhand comment about the way there lawn was. We were grilled on lawn applications from her sister from OREGON. WE LIVE IN NC. She apparently knows more about the turf here than we do. I can not stand this bs some days but I look back at it all as a learning experience.
  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Sounds like the new boyfriend was the biggest part of the problem. I wouldn't be too hard on her. His tastes didn't match hers or yours so it was all wong. Alot of control freaks have bizarre ideas and they must be carried out by certain people of a certain calibur.
    I have one client who always wants me to come in early and when I get there he is making breakfast and we eat and discuss the day's project before we go to work. I like the work whether with the client or on my own, so my opinion about milk and cookies is that - it is just PR more than anything. After 20 some years now of working with these people it would defineately be a personal affront if I was suddenly pushed aside in what I have been doing for all that time. I would find out exactly why - then decide whether I walk away or not.
  5. Mike Fronczak

    Mike Fronczak LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 301

    You can't take things personally when your in business, make your money & move on, if they keep using you great, if not you made your money. I've given customers more than my share of "freebies or at cost work" only to have them turn around & use somone else as you describe. You can't stress over it, as it sounds you are. AND QUIT GIVING HER FREEBIES THEY HURT YOU (financialy), & WON"T HELP THE SITUATION.
  6. ACutAboveNC

    ACutAboveNC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 88

    The contract work with the drainage was through us and it was when we first started with her so we did not want to leave a sour taste in her mouth. Plus, we were trying to win her over since she is treasure of the HOA and would be to our best interest to make her happy and hopefully win the contract. This was two years ago and there is no way I would make the same mistake twice. I usually do not do things for free but I felt it was only the right thing to do at the time. We are also still looking for the contractor because he owes about 3k. That is were I would have made my money. It really did sting but we will continue to do the work she asked us to and maintain it professional because sooner or later I am sure we will be asked to resume our normal responsibilities at the property. Thanks for the input guys.

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