Lost a bunch of clients - should we go Full Service?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Arvydas, Jul 25, 2019.

  1. Arvydas

    Arvydas LawnSite Member
    Messages: 142

    Hey everyone,

    We've lost 6 (maybe 7 now) unhappy mowing/maintenance clients over the last week (and we're only a 3 vehicle operation). They were new-ish clients that had only been with us for this year.

    Two of the clients went with a cheaper company, but the rest of them have been unhappy with how their landscape looks.

    I am only in the field for installations, and not maintenance anymore, but I know my crew has been doing a good job.

    I think part of the problem has been that these people are expecting something they aren't paying for. I had one client call me to cancel, and was upset that there were weeds in his lawn and beds; but we had only ever scheduled a one time weeding when we first started, not on-going weed control! He never mentioned that he wanted on-going weed control - he said he was "trying to control costs". And yet he's blaming me now. :hammerhead:

    Another was upset that his lawn isn't perfect and green after the aeration we did in the spring, which he still hasn't paid for! And yet he didn't sign up for on-going fertilization. :cry:

    I feel like continuing to offer "a la carte" maintenance services is a mistake. Has anyone else had this experience? There is too much room for misunderstanding by the client, and misplaced expectations.

    I'm now feeling like we should only take on full service clients. No more "mowing... and sometimes weeding" when the client feels like paying for it. It just makes us look bad.

    I only want to take on a lawn client if it's going to be maintained property, with regular aeration, fertilization, edging, weed control (organic or otherwise), etc.

    The same goes for general landscape maintenance. I'm done with clients that only want to pay for 4 hours of weeding every month when they really need 8, and then complain that there are weeds inbetween visits. Only taking on properties that I would be proud to attach our name to seems really nice to me - clients who know that they need to pay to have a landscape look good all the time.

    Anyone have thoughts about this, or similar experiences? :dizzy::dizzy::dizzy:
     
    hort101 likes this.
  2. GRANTSKI

    GRANTSKI LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,787

    I can say just from the mowing side I find myself cursing weed infested lawns and not happy servicing them. So I can only imagine dealing w this as a landscaper. I’d maybe offer 3 “levels” (or whatever you want to call it) of service so customer knows what to expect from the start. Level 1 being now & blow / level 3 being full service.
     
    zlandman and hort101 like this.
  3. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 16,798

    mowing weedy yards is the norm here. i've never once mowed a yard that was all grass. i have 1 yard that is mostly zoysia with a few weeds in it. the other 30 something are 75% weeds and 25% grass.

    needless to say that 1 yard is the easiest to mow. never leave a single straggler on that yard. all the others are a pita.
     
    MattZ28 and Greencuts518 like this.
  4. sjessen

    sjessen LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Knoxville, Tn
    Messages: 10,666

    Sounds as though communication and expectations are at the root of the problem.

    Were these clients new to the green industry or did they use other services in the past? Those who are new to using a service sometimes have the most unrealistic expectations.

    Based on your original post some of the new clients are expecting champagne for the price of 3.2% beer.

    Full service seems like a good alternative going forward. Have you thought about taking pictures for your record as proof of service, especially on weeding. People think weeding should cost $6 per hour yet they don't want to do it.
     
    MattZ28, Wolfgang, hort101 and 5 others like this.
  5. Matthews Lawn Care

    Matthews Lawn Care LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,620

    Unrealistic expectations in my opinion stem from communication issues. Someone did a poor job communicating the expectation/standard and/or a poor job selling a service the customer was in need of. Full service accts aren’t much different. You don’t just get a full service acct, you have to sell a full service acct by addressing the services they will need and communicating to them the importance of the services they need and what to expect if they decide they don’t need this or that service. It’s all about educating the customer. You better know your sh1t tho or you’ll lose more accts quicker cuz the expectations will be even higher. Lots of moving parts in full service accts.
     
    AI Inc, Jeff@diyokc and JLSLLC like this.
  6. JLSLLC

    JLSLLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,374

    Were you on site? Every time? Did you at least check?How do you know your crew was doing a good job?

    I am solo and manage 40ish accounts, but I don’t have issues like mentioned. I usually drop bc they lack paying, etc... or in my state-rude.
     
  7. agm

    agm LawnSite Senior Member
    from NM
    Messages: 329

    This is exactly why we use service contracts with everything laid out on what we do. 99% of our customers are full service. We have 3 accounts that are mow only and we have a service contract for that too. I learned my lesson many years ago and thats why we started using them. Its been 15 years that weve been using them and never had any issues.
     
    E-town, hort101, Jeff@diyokc and 4 others like this.
  8. That Guy Gary

    That Guy Gary LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,851

    We are full service with ala carte choices on higher margin services. Basically no one is maintenance only but we'll consider it for apps, irrigation, pruning, landscaping, etc.

    We have a really low turnover that consists almost entirely of people moving or facing financial hardship.
     
    hort101, Patriot Services and sjessen like this.
  9. Bunton Guy

    Bunton Guy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,321

    We do only full service. It is a double edged sword as well!

    Same bananas as what you mentioned where they think we do everything for them because it's "full service". Example, storm comes through and brings down large branches into lawn, large enough to need a chain saw. My clients mostly expect me to be on call to clean that crap up for free. I sent out Bill's last bad storm for clean up and only received half of the payments.
     
    hort101, Patriot Services and sjessen like this.
  10. OP
    OP
    Arvydas

    Arvydas LawnSite Member
    Messages: 142

    Thanks for the replies everyone. My crew was doing the work, but I would check in on the properties. The clients were often expecting something they weren't paying for.

    I communicated mostly in person during the initial quote visit. I see now that I need to have everything exactly spelled out in a written maintenence agreement. I do for a lot of our clients, but didn't for these particular ones.

    Someoen mentioned how full service can be tricky too with a lot more moving parts. That's true. I feel like we ca deliver that easier then just doing things piece meal though. If we have the financial green light from a client to make the property look great all the time, it's easier to manage in many ways than a client that only wants mowing, and weeding "sometimes", or "only in one area of the property". Too much room for issues there.
     

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