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Made a mistake, lost a customer..

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by inzane, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. locallawncare.ca

    locallawncare.ca LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 756

    I think people should make sure that their gates and latches are in proper working order, I have so many yards where the gates are all twisted, the latches are stiff/stuck or broken and you have to basically slam the gate to get the latch to clip down or reach over and push it down, I have one where I have to stand on my mower to open and close the gate, like wtf. Then you tell people and they are like you just have to wiggle it or something silly. They don't seem to understand the frustration that comes with these gates. I realize that many homeowners don't even use their gate so they have no idea how bad it may be, they come in and out of a sliding door or something and never actually walk around their own property. I think all gates should have those springs that automatically pull it shut and hold it in place, I know they are a pain when you try to get a mower through because they are continuously closing on you, but a stick usually keeps them open and then atleast they shut behind you. Sorry to rant, man I hate gates. About 95% of my properties have them and only about 50% are what I would call a proper functioning gates. Lol.
  2. inzane

    inzane LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,478

    I have one customer with the worst gate ever. it doesn't latch, i have to move 4 or 5 little boulders that are holding it shut, push like heck to squeeze my fata$$ into the gate to push the other boulders away on other side so i can squeeze through and get it open. I have to bring a "bridge" which is a piece of plyboard i lay over the HOLE that is at the entrance that the dog dug out just so i can get a walkbehind back there. The lady had the nerve to tell me after the 2nd time i came out that i broke her gate, and now the dogs can push out of it.. I ignored her, that gate was all messed up from the get go. they never cancelled, but i wish they would. i mowed over a golf club that was under the overgrown grass last time, and almost 2 hammers, luckily i saw them... the guy was nice enough to fill the hole in last month but the dogs already dug it out, he's thinking concrete now.. lol.

  3. JMK26

    JMK26 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Missouri
    Messages: 1,521

    I have a dog, and I would check the gate before I let my dog out....

    That being said, if the gate was open or unlatched I'd call you and let you know the gate was open/unlatched. If it happened again you'd be fired. Not shutting the gate is the same as not trimming around the tree, missing a strip of lawn. If you use it, it's part of the job. I wouldn't expect you to check my front door to make sure I locked it and I wouldn't expect you to check the stove since you didn't use it, but if you use my gate, I expect you to make sure it's shut.

    Sure the homeowner should check, and I would, being my dog is number 2 in my life besides my wife, BUT it isn't really about the dog OR the gate, it's about doing the job at hand, and a gate is meant to be shut. It's begging to be shut, it's created to be shut, if not it would be an open yard or nothing but a fence.

    A homeowner pays us to mow their property...mostly because it's one less worry in their lives........Now if a homeowner has to check the gate every week after their lawn guy comes over ....what else do they have to check? If they didn't trim/mow something? If they broke something? A homeowner may check these things if they hired the kid down the street, but not a professional.

    It always sucks to lose a customer don't get me wrong, but the client wasn't being petty, wasn't being a jerk, they expected a certain standard when they hired you and it wasn't met. It's pretty much why any company or employee is fired, they didn't meet the standard.
  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I feel for you. Losing an account over a one-time mistake always sucks. I always felt like people were being a little too unreasonable to fire us for something that was a one-time occurrence after having done it the right way for so many times before.

    But having done this for now 17 years and having over 300 residential accounts that we do every week, I can tell you there are a LOT of homeowners who feel the same way. I've learned this lesson the hard way too many times. I never actually did it myself when I was doing the mowing. It's only happened with my employees. But it's happened plenty of times over the years and at least half of the time you get fired immediately.

    I'm not sure that just not taking on clients with dogs is the correct response. To me, that says that you'd rather avoid the situation than have to really teach yourself to be responsible. I guess I just resent that attitude. It's your business. Do what you want. That just isn't the attitude of a winner, IMO.

    What we had to do was implement a very strict policy in regards to gates:
    1. Both crew members on the crew have to check both gates before they leave. It's both their responsibility.
    2. We leave a checklist on the clients door every week saying what services we did that week. One of them says, "gates latched securely and checked by both crew members." So they're held accountable on their check list.
    3. They have to write it down in the service log for that home that they latched the gates securely.
    4. If a gate is broken, has trouble shutting all the way, or is very difficult to close securely, we make a note of it on their checklist, on our service log and the account manager calls the customer to let them know and offer a price for us to fix it. Then we're on the record for having told them.
    5. We go over this policy several times a year just to remind the crews.

    That has dramatically reduced the occurrences to like one visit in about 8000 visits. But it still happens every once in a while.

    If I was a Solo Op. I'd just implement some sort of policy of checking the gates twice before I left. Once before I put my checklist on the door and a second time after.

    Now, if you have a problem with dog crap being in the yard at the time of service, that's a separate matter. There are easy ways to deal with that problem by just discussing the matter to your client. But just not taking on good paying accounts just because they have dogs seems to be like a pretty lame policy, just to shirk responsibility.
  5. DA Quality Lawn & YS

    DA Quality Lawn & YS LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,220

    OP don't feel bad, skip those lawns with dogs always running around in them, crapping all over. You will get a new, dog free one soon.
  6. MOturkey

    MOturkey LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,780

    Seems as if problems with gates is pretty common. I wonder if anyone ever thought about using some type of "seal" when they close gates before leaving a property. You know, similar to what they do on semi loads and such. I'm thinking something similar to those lightweight zip ties you get with some brands of garbage bags. Not something the property owner would have to grab the bolt cutters to remove, but strong enough so that it would remain intact until someone actually opened the gate.
  7. pseudosun

    pseudosun LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,739

    I've learned that gut feelings are important. You were right, they're strange.
  8. orangemower

    orangemower LawnSite Silver Member
    from pa
    Messages: 2,768

    So the customer was wrong for firing a contractor because he didn't follow through with the job he was hired to perform? So that makes the customer strange? :hammerhead:
  9. inzane

    inzane LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,478

    there is still no way i left that gate open. I know this because every single time i pull away from that home i have to turn around in the cul-de-sac, and there is not one yard i will not glance over on the way back to inspect the work from a distance. i'm just funny like that.. If that gate was open, i would have seen it and got out. I remember specifically looking over that property, i would have seen an open gate. this is not something that can be argued with the customer. It is an important detail though, and in there eyes it was me.. so "it was my fault" many factors here, the neighborhood kids that play ball in the cul-de-sac could have went back there to retrieve a ball.. I seen that happen once or twice while i was mowing.. utility people just walk through the backyards here.. Its possible i didn't push it closed enough .. anyway, mistakes happen. nobody here is perfect. Nobody's gate latches around here are perfect either. lol. sh!t happens in this line of work, all we can do is the best we can, and learn from our mistakes and improve the way we do things.

    Still, I am tired of clients with dogs in the back yard. Not my kind of yard i like to take care of.. who likes mowing over dog crap? having to pick up all the dog toys every time? Anyone else ever mowed over a dog bone with that was under some thick grass that you just didn't see? I get sick of the people who constantly ask.. "what can i do to make my dogs urine not burn my lawn..." I'm tired of people who forget to put the dog in. Had one lady that wanted the lawn mowed as low as the mower goes because she was afraid a snake would get her dog.. of course she wanted it mowed every 2 weeks. didn't take me long to drop her. I still have a few more like this, and i doubt i will keep them on next year. As i get better customers, the ones i don't want to mess with will be dropped very nicely. IMO there is plenty of work in my area where i can be atleast a little picky about the customers i take on.

    the checklist is a good idea, i was thinking the same thing yesterday. I was gonna add that to my daily route sheet for each customer. Somebody mentioned a plastic seal, which i was thinking as well. It seems silly though, but we used to put them on the trailers when i worked on the loading dock. customer would have to cut the seal with siccors to re-open. lol. sounds like a good idea, but if i was a customer, i wouldn't like it. i'd expect the company to shut the gate everytime.

  10. inzane

    inzane LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,478

    NO. they were strange for other reasons. you get those now and again.. and hey, innocent until proven guilty in my eyes.. and one less lawn full of POO that i don't have to mow every 2 weeks. :drinkup:


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