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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I lost another one last night.... this is the third account in the last 3 weeks, two of them for the same reason, both were dissatisified with how their lawn looks right now, and neither was really much of a PITA, but without any warnings both just sent notice that I was out and they had hired someone else.

We have had drought conditions followed by too much rain, followed by drought conditions this year. We did not get to do a fall aeration and reseeding last year, but instead did it in the spring, which screwed up the pre emmergent application schedule, hence the yards all have a fair amount of weeds in them. 2 of the 3 cancellations ( one of them cancelled cause he wants his teenage son to mow to earn his allowance, and the dad owns a landscaping company and he used to mow years ago, he wants his son to learn how to mow... ) anyway, 2 of them, including the one from last night had me spray round up in the yard to kill off patches of crabgrass and weeds late last summer, and of course we didn't get to aerate last fall due to the drought. One of the two has a well and so we aerated anyway last fall, but the results weren't great, and the other had to live with bare spots all winter.

I can understand their dissatisifaction, if they hired me expecting me to make their yards look great I let them down. I do not do much as far as spraying goes and I don't tend to do alot of fertilizer applications. I mainly just mow, and that is about all I have time for. For most of my customers this is good enough, but from time to time I loose one here or there cause they want a lawnservice that will do everything rather than me to mow and another to spray and another to do the mulching, and another to do landscaping. Sometimes I think I need to do all these services too, but I only have a given amount of time to work and can't do alot of these extra services and still do a full schedule of mowings too. I prefer mowing anyway, it is relatively easy and it is steady as far as need for it and income wise. Sometimes I just wonder what I should do......


Here is the email between my customer and me,

Subject: lawn care
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2008 21:02:53 -0400
From: pllambert1

Ron,

I realize that we have some things about our yard that has made it difficult to establish a good lawn and I appreciate your efforts to improve our lawn; however, I am not satisfied with our results and have decided to try a different approach. Please discontinue our lawn service at the end of this month and only do the basic lawn service during this period.

We may decide to use your services in the future if we do not get better results during the next year, but it is time for us to try a different approach.

Phil


From: Ron A.
To: pllambert
Sent: Wed, 20 Aug 2008 11:10 pm
Subject: RE: lawn care


I understand your dissatisfaction with the way it looks, believe me I am not proud of it either.

There are many factors that do make it difficult to have a thick weed free lawn...

1. lowest lot in the area, so all rain water drains through the front yard

2. neighbors on either side with weed infested lawns, neither of which does any kind of weed treatments, and weed seeds are blown into your lawn and also washed downstream in the rain into your lawn.

3. Irrigation system that is never properly set, with some areas getting far too much watering, and other areas not enough.

4. un irrigated areas in your lawn that cause good grass to stress and die in the drought conditions we have had both last summer and twice this summer already, then once the good grass thins out from heat stress and lack of watering, weeds take over and spread through out the lawn.

5. the high amount of wash out in rain storms over most of your lawn washes away the chemical barriers I put out with the pre emmergent application, leaving the lawn open for weed seeds to germinate and grow.


Per your request I killed off large areas of the front yard last fall to kill out the bermuda grass like weeds you had in your lawn and the lawn has struggled to properly fill in those areas due mostly to 1-5 listed above. Now those areas are filling in with crabgrass. The lawn would be in much better shape if we had not killed off those areas and just overseeded with fescue.

There is no absolute solution for your lawn. Weeds and less desireable grasses will do okay under the conditions your property poses, but to have a nice stand of fescue will be a struggle, until most importantly the irrigation is set properly. I feel this is the main reason for the way it looks now, followed closely by the rainwater run off through the lawn and the low level of areas of the lawn and the way some areas have trouble draining and drying out.


The best approach is going to be many many chemical spray applications, likely one or two times per month. Spraying for weed control, and fungus prevention, and probably would be best for fertilizer to be applied in liquid applications.

I mainly focus on weekly lawn mowing / maintance. I am not set up to specialize in liquid applications and normally do not push for chemical applications. For most of my clients, these chemicals are not needed anyway. Your lawn does need them though.

I do suggest you look at hiring Chemlawn and set up a chemical full service program with them and let them know what you want and let them spray the lawn on a monthly basis.

Now if you want to let me go and hire another lawnservice company, hoping this will fix the problems in your lawn I can understand that. But, if the new company is not going to do chemical spraying on a regular basis your lawn will not improve, at least not in the next year or so. Granular applications will NOT fix your lawn and will not be enough.

All lawn services are going to mow the same, mowing the lawn does not cause or fix problems with weeds or lack of positive fescue growth in your lawn. So if you feel you need to let me go and hire another company to mow I can understand, but like I said above, unless that new company is also going to do frequent and aggressive chemical applications, your not likely going to see anything different than you would see from my service. I strongly suggest you let Chemlawn do the chemical applications and fertilizing, and have the lawnservice, be it me or another company do the regular weekly mowing and trimming.

Be prepared and warned that the chemical applications are expensive. This is another reason I don't push them. Some applications can run a few hundred dollars just for one spraying on a yard the size of yours. The cost of fertilizer has more than doubled since last year as well. I tell you this so you know what to expect if you have been shopping around for quotes from other companies. If the other companies are quoting you low prices, then they aren't planning on doing what needs to do done with the chemicals and fertilizers to get the lawn where you want it and maintain it there. There are alot of people in this business that have no problem making false promises to a potential customer to get a new account.

I am sorry you were not happy with my service, hope you keep me in mind if you need me in the future. I feel I have been fair, honest, and dependable,

thanks, Ron




Ron,

I agree with most of what wrote and I will keep you in mind in the future, since you have been fair, honest and dependable.

FYI - We are going to use a lawn care company for mowing, etc. that works very closely with a chemical spray application company. In fact, the owner of the lawn care company will communicate directly with the chemical company anytime there are issues with their work, and he has clout with them since they do about 50 of his customers' lawns. You are also right that we are going to spend more money. As I said in my earlier email, it's time to try a different approach. If we don't get significantly better results for the additional money we will be spending, I will likely be talking to you again.

Best regards,

Phil
 

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I would have made some calls to find out what it will cost to do chemical apps on the property to bring it back. You spraying RU might not have been the best answer to the customers problem. Did you ever call anyone that sprays to find out what the lawn actually needs to build the lawn up to what the customer wants? You might have not lost the customer had you gotten the estimates and disgusted it with them. Now you lost a mowing account that I think you could have saved by offering to find a good chem company and getting the facts straight on what it really needs to grow a weed free lawn for them. They even told you they found a guy that knows a chem company that will work close together to see that the lawn comes back. Thats exactly what you should have done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I switched them from 30$ per cut to 120$ per month last year and they freaked out over the price " increase ".... I did not think they wanted to spend the more money to have a better looking yard.

As for spraying round up to kill off weeded areas, I don't think I will ever do that again. It cost me two accounts this year the way I see it.
 

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Was that $120 a month for all 12 months out of the year? That would be a substantial increase.

It's sad when homeowners just can't relay to their LCO what their expecting. I've seen it happen before and even encouraged a new customer to talk to their old LCO before I took an account over. No dice.
 

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Find yourself a good partner in applications - this will sound harsh but your not ready for the task and you didnt do enough up front work to see this through. Applications can make you look bad real fast - the customer has to be educated clearly on the expectations and timelines. Nothing is instant unless you drop sod - I use a check list and a series of expectations with a signature to ensure we work from the same page and have the same timelines and expectations.
 

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You have a case where the minute you go to estimate the lawn, you need to lay out EXACTLY what you do and do not do to the customer. If you are mow and blow only, say so. Customers are clueless as to difference in service levels, and are quick to blame if they think things aren't up to snuff.

Open lines of communication must be explained up front as well. The customer should not be springing a canx letter on you - why didn't they tell you months ago they were expecting more?
 

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You recommended Chemlawn?????
 

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Sux when you feel like your doing all you can with your abilities to make your customer happy and they do this to you. I can see why you felt they were hesitant to pay more.

A lesson in this as others have mentioned is communication, don't expect the customer to communicate either, it seems we consistently have to ask the customer "how are we doing?" and then hope they tell you the truth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Was that $120 a month for all 12 months out of the year? That would be a substantial increase.

It's sad when homeowners just can't relay to their LCO what their expecting. I've seen it happen before and even encouraged a new customer to talk to their old LCO before I took an account over. No dice.
No, I switched all my accounts from pay per cut to a flat monthly rate that was equal to 4 cuts at the start of last years mowing season. The customer is not obligated to a set number of months, and typically I do not do much if anything in Jan and Feb. If they want anything beyond mowing and trimming, this is billed as a extra fee for that given month. When I switched him from 30$ a cut to 120$ a month, he emailed me or phoned me ( can't remember ) *****ing about how this would be more than he spent the year before, like 20-30 percent more or something to that effect. He hasn't come off as overly cheap over the time I have done business with him but he hasn't acted like he wanted to throw whatever money needed to be thrown around to make his yard a showpiece.

I have a notes section on the bottom of all my invoices where I can put a message to my clients. Several times per year I put on my invoices a note for my customers to please do not hesitate to call or email me anytime with questions or concerns. I rarely ever here from them.... Usually if I here anything it is that they are happy and satisfied, or I hear from them the way I heard from this guy, that they are not happy and my ass is fired!:hammerhead:
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
You recommended Chemlawn?????
I know, I know... Chemlawn sucks. Problem is I don't know anyone that does chemical applications and doesn't also mow grass. I don't want my customers dealing with another lawn service, too risky IMO
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
You have a case where the minute you go to estimate the lawn, you need to lay out EXACTLY what you do and do not do to the customer. If you are mow and blow only, say so. Customers are clueless as to difference in service levels, and are quick to blame if they think things aren't up to snuff.

Open lines of communication must be explained up front as well. The customer should not be springing a canx letter on you - why didn't they tell you months ago they were expecting more?
The problem is all the lawns around here have been struggling. We have had some rain this summer, but we still had enough drought conditions to do major damage to alot of lawns, his included. I have spoke with this customer several times this year and told him that I have done all I can do with the treatments I could do. To be honest I don't think spraying his yard will do much other than kill weeds and if there is no weeds there will be little left in the front yard that is green!

And his back yard is mostly weeds and he doesn't want to do treatments to prevent or kill weeds back there, so just through mowing his yard, weed seeds are blown and transfered from the back to the front. His property overall is a difficult one to make right, and what makes it worse is he lives in a expensive neighborhood at the end of a culdesac and several of his neighbors he has to drive by twice a day have probably some of the nicest condition lawns in all of the Charlotte area. Of course they aren't at the bottom of the flow of water either and don't get flooded in heavy rains, and their irrigation systems are likely adjusted to evenly and properly water their lawns etc...

I see customers of mine from time to time and the ones whose lawns aren't looking too hot I tell them I am sorry for the way it looks, and almost all of them say not to worry, that they know it isn't my fault, it is the drought and tight water restrictions we have been under.

I would love to find a reasonably priced fert and squirt company that does good work and will not steal my customers away from me. One that will work with me and not blame me to the customers for their short comings. Until I am ready to grow my business and add a few employees, I don't have the time to take on the responsibility of mowing and doing all the chemical treatments needed. And with the price of fertilizer ( was quoted about 35$ a bag today for starter fert from Lesco, I remember just a few years ago it was about 11$ a bag ) I fear most of my middle class customers won't want to pay a fair price for me to do a fertilizer application, much less spray the yard with Drive or fungus treatments etc....
 

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No, I switched all my accounts from pay per cut to a flat monthly rate that was equal to 4 cuts at the start of last years mowing season. The customer is not obligated to a set number of months, and typically I do not do much if anything in Jan and Feb.
I'm still having a little trouble understanding what you're doing.

Let's say that your regular mowing season is from April until October. Are you only sending them a bill from April until October or are you sending them a bill from January until December?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Guess since most people try for 12 month contracts this is what confuses you. No, my season starts in March and goes through to the end of either November for some or the end of December for most. They pay a monthly flat rate for my services during these months.

But for example, if a customer decides that they no longer need me at the end of October, that is fine. The rate is what it is per month, no contract, no timetable obligations. In the fall I come out less often, every two weeks, to deal with the leaves, therefore if they can me for the season after the bulk of the leaves have been mulched, I am not screwed. Other times of the year it washes out, some months they end up getting 5 cuts and I loose potential income equal to one cut that month, but then other months when it is real dry I might skip the lawn one week and I still get paid as if I was there 4 times. I was out of town on Vacation the first week of this month and I will still get paid the same as if I had been here and mowed that week.

I have a few 12 month contract customers, that will be paying the same amount all year long, But I do not push these types of service agreements as the customer expects to see you around in the winter as much as they saw you in the summer or else they think they are getting ripped off. In the winter I want time off, time as far away from lawn mowers and lawn service as possible.

I have also been cancelled at the end of the cutting season by contract customers, this is after I did all the weekly mowings, leaf clean ups, shrub pruning, aerations, etc.... and was supposed to work far less over the upcoming few months of winter and still collect a check, making the work and amount charged even out. Well when they cancel early I get screwed. I know I could sue them and place liens and all that, but what a pain in the ass. I would rather charge a little more now, make the customer pay extra for extra work, have the customer feeling good as they are under no obligations, and just save up through the year to carry me through the winter months when income is low.
 

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round up for crab grass? You deserved to lose this account. When selling you need to do a profile on each account and state what is the desired result? Sometimes you have people sayI dont want any weeds, well guess what there better not be any weeds on your end. Another may say I want it greener then the whole county looks like your getting ponded. yet another may say no crab grass looks like you are getting 2 apps of preemergent and cut at 3.5.
 

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my response: "dear mrs customer, you think YOU'RE not happy? i can't describe the embarrassment i feel each and every time a car drives by and someone sees me working on your ratty , crappy, weed infested lawn. it is a relief not to have to come back there. " then go on to point out every freakin time she was a day late on her bill (one day late, is late), and also bill her for every freakin phone call (consultation fee) and anything u ever did besides just mow the grass. customers are expendible. make damn sure they never forget that!
 
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