Managing small requests

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Bunton Guy, Aug 23, 2018.

  1. Bunton Guy

    Bunton Guy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,319

    It's getting very tedious keeping up with some customers small requests of things they want us to do different then we normally would do on a weekly basis.

    For example today I got a call from a client wanting us to weekly blow out his landscape bed along his house. The bed has river rock instead of mulch and a row of about 5-6 arborvitaes that drop needles constantly. He wants us to blow the dropped needles every week out of the bed and down the hill into the woods roughly 40-50 feet.

    I'm starting to get more and more of these nit picky requests and all of these will add time. I'm on the fence of dropping him, he already said if we don't start doing this that he will find someone else that will....

    During leaf removal season Nov-Jan we would blow this bed out weekly in conjunction with leaf removal. But this time of the year it's out of our normal scope of work.

    Even if I told him I would do it for $10 extra a month I think I would have a hard time conveying the importance of these extras to my employees. Which I know that is my fault, but i've more or less turned the employees into robots to perform the same service on every lawn.

    How do you guys accommodate requests like these?

    Another request we got earlier in the week was from a lady who wants my employees to make sure every week they walk around the house and blow all the window corners to knock down the spider webs. I told her that's the job of a pest control company that walks around with the swabbing brush on a stick! She wasn't happy and said she might replace us.

    In our contracts it specifically states what and when we do things. None of these extras fit into what we offer or how we do business. But I feel that my client list will be thinning quickly if we don't do the things they ask for.
     
    Tara Ann likes this.
  2. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,690

    If it's all laid out in your contract, then there isn't much room for them to ask for the extra services for no charge. Blowing out the window sills may be something I would do if I am walking around the house to blow a back deck or something anyway. The spider web thing is really asking a lot. That is one of those things you may offer for an additional charge. But there could be a lot of spider webs and they like to stick to brick so it may become time consuming. I can't believe the customer would even think you would offer that as part of your normal service.

    It's a tough subject really. I look at it like something small I MAY do as a nice gesture. Or maybe I look at it sometimes as my way of heIping others why I am out working. But I mean simple tasks not knocking down spider webs lol

    I do realize I have customers that are 90 plus years of age and I will do small things to keep them from trying to do it themselves and risk falling or getting hurt. But when crews are running around they are eating up YOUR money so I get that too. I have been a little irritated lately at one customer in particular. What started out as a nice gesture to bring the newspaper from the road to the house has turned into an every week thing along with "can you bring my mail too and "can you move my garbage can back from the road by the house", and lately "can you take this jug of water and water my plant in that pot over there." So now that is 4 nice gestures every week. How long does it take? 1 -2 minutes I guess. I just don't like to feel like anything extra is expected. If I choose to do a favor then that is on me. Some will take advantage of you though.
     
  3. Crammin'Mows

    Crammin'Mows LawnSite Member
    from Oregon
    Messages: 169

    I charge by time and materials, so if we do extra, we are paid. We do all kinds of extra chores for people every week, constantly a honey do list.
    If my crews don't have time for it that week, I say so and keep them on route, and do the extra tasks as they fit in the schedule.
    Going the extra mile develops the relationship with the client, fills the schedule when needed, and makes more money.
    Not to mention you won't get fired for saying no to a few minutes of extra blowing.
    It does get hard to keep track of the endless extra tasks, so when someone asks, I program it immediately into the google calendar, and it just pops up on the appropriate scheduled day and we do it.

    Most recently I picked up and hauled away a horrifying dead deer that's was a seething pile of maggots for a client that has been with me for 15 years. He sticks with me year after year cause he knows he can always count on us to go the extra mile. I almost gagged, but it's a small price to pay for the long term value of the relationship.
     
  4. Mark Stark

    Mark Stark LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 668

    As soon as a client says something like "If you won't do it, I'll find someone who will", my words are "I'm sorry to hear that but you're free to do so at any time".

    I mean really, c'mon! Helping out a client is a wonderful thing but I'll never help anyone under threat of being replaced.
     
  5. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,690

    Yeah I wouldn't do it either if they threaten to find someone else. I don't do anything under threats to find someone else. That is an admission by them of knowing it is not included but they feel you will do more to not lose the contract.
    Most of the time they bluff when they threaten anyway. Had a lady that I could never get along with that sent an email one time about "things I wasn't doing" and that it may be time to find another company that can do these "things" I responded with what our agreement was and how she has been adding more and more "things" slowly over time. I told her I did not mind doing anything she wanted but I needed extra money for extra services. I ended the email with something like, I am very sorry but I understand your need to find another lawn service that can work better for your needs. It has been nice working for you. Then she responded with I didn't mean it like that, I don't want you to stop servicing. lol...I was so glad to finally get rid of her.
     
    Tara Ann likes this.
  6. Todd73

    Todd73 LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Florida
    Messages: 2,583

    This is why I have a customer agreement. Services are clearly outlined and it states that any work above that will result an additional charge. I also state that extra work most likely will not be able to be completed same day. I don’t mind doing little things every now and then for good customers, but it can snowball out of hand. Say you have 40 lawns to do in a week. 10 people ask you for specials. 5-10 minutes per extra just cost you 50-100 minutes that week.

    Customer wants to complain that I won’t do free extras and wants to go with someone else, well, there’s the door, don’t let it hit ya where God split ya! Fortunately, that has only been an issue with one former customer who started trying to get extras when I went up on price, then had the audacity to complain about work quality and price. Told him I wouldn’t be back, got in the truck, and left him ranting away on his front lawn.
     
    DXN1EL, Tara Ann and landscaper22 like this.
  7. Joe Shooner

    Joe Shooner LawnSite Member
    Messages: 218

    This is a challenging situation to deal with because small amounts of scope-creep really add up and erode your efficiency and profitability.

    My only suggestion is to always try to approach these things from a collaborative perspective instead of a confrontational one. It's very tempting to either just do it to make the client happy, but at the detriment of the company, or to draw a line in the sand and say "this isn't in your contract, so it's gonna cost you."

    In between these options is, ideally, a collaborative arrangement. You might try saying something like, "that's actually a really great idea. I can see where that would be helpful and make the place look better. My only concern is that I priced your service based on a time estimate that didn't include that. So typically I would have to charge you more for this if you want us to do it on a weekly basis. One thought would be for me to have the guys blow that out once a month, and then more frequently during leaf season, when we budget the time to blow the beds out every week. If you are ok with us doing it ever month, we can probably do that. Or we could do it every week but I'd have to charge an extra $10 a week, so just let me know how you'd like to play it."

    Now, I'm assuming that you could swing it once a month and that may not be true. But when I'm faced with a similar situation, I like to clearly but nicely explain that I didn't account for that in their current pricing, then offer some option that you are willing to do without raising the price, and tell them what the cost would be if you do what they are actually asking for.

    Good luck!
     
    NinjaSteve likes this.
  8. NinjaSteve

    NinjaSteve LawnSite Member
    from Georgia
    Messages: 36

    Agree completely! :nod:
     
  9. NinjaSteve

    NinjaSteve LawnSite Member
    from Georgia
    Messages: 36

    Very nicely worded :)
     
  10. caseysmowing

    caseysmowing LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,280

    Good talks here. I've had a few of these type situations happen to me with new clients that ended with one of us walking away. No big deal just annoying and sometimes insulting when they are clearly just trying to get free stuff. All my long time clients are perfect. Not a peep from them except how happy or grateful they are for my services. I'm blessed to say the least about my current client list. Only downside is they know I'm a very busy person and they will get other companies to do work I could do for them just because they don't want to bother me with more work. No big deal.
     

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