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Question for Homeowners

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by NickN, Aug 11, 2004.

  1. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Messages: 1,009

    I know most of you that are on this forum enjoy maintaining your own lawn and landscapes,but I'd like a little help that could benefit those of us in the lawn and landscape industry.
    1.What would you look for in a lawn care company?Feel free to list most important to least important.
    2.What would you look for in a landscaping company?(ditto)
    3.Is price THE main factor in choosing to maintain your own property or is it something else?
    4.Where would you look,as in Yellow Pages,etc.,, for a lawn and landscaping co. to maintain your property?
    5.Is/would insurance be a major factor in hiring someone for lawn care or landscaping?
    6.What about state certification (if applicable) for landscaping and pesticide(weed killer) applications?
    7.If you were unsatisfied with someones service,would you discuss this with them or would you cancel service and find someone else?
    8.If you were hiring a lawn and landscaping service,would you ask to see letters of reference,proof of insurance,state certifications,etc.,,?
    9.Would you like a periodical survey of your property,say every two months,to evaluate things such as soil pH,plant health,fertilizer recommendations,etc.,,and then have that included in your monthly invoice?

    Thank you to all who may respond.I'm simply trying to better understand what a potential customer looks for and how best to satisfy their lawn and landscaping needs.Hopefully it can help others out here as well.
  2. harryhomeowner

    harryhomeowner LawnSite Member
    Messages: 140

    Let me have a shot at this:

    1.Professional appearance, currently have at least 1 account in my neighborhood, relatively new gear, well spoken (I'm not looking for a Phd, but, someone who can speak to my landscape at a higher level than I can. Competitive price, I'll go with the highest price - if within reason over 2 other less qualified candidates. ie. I will pay for quality.
    2.See #1
    3.I do most things on my own. Next year I want a patio installed, I don't have the gear or the expertise to produce a patio to my own high standards therefore, call in the pros.
    4. First I ask friends who did their landscapes, then take notice of those outfits with profession rigs and note their # off of their sign, last Yellow pages
    5. Yes, no insurance, no job
    6. I'd like to say yes but, I've never even noticed if my fert/squirt guy is lic. just notice the results.
    7. If I were unhappy with their service I would let them know and if I ended up very unhappy I'd make sure a lot of people know this.
    8.If you were hiring a lawn and landscaping service,would you ask to see letters of reference,proof of insurance,state certifications,etc.,,? YES
    9.Would you like a periodical survey of your property,say every two months,to evaluate things such as soil pH,plant health,fertilizer recommendations,etc.,,and then have that included in your monthly invoice? Sure, I'd like it weekly but, don't do anything, that would cost me $$$ unless you asked me first. BTW, I'm the type of customer that notices the extras as well as the short comings of a job well done vs. 1/2 done.
  3. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Messages: 1,009

    Thank you for your response.BTW,no extra charge for the bi-monthly property evaluation.I should have specified that.
  4. dvmcmrhp52

    dvmcmrhp52 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Pa.
    Messages: 4,205

    I'm a little leary concerning this type of business activity,only because it reminds me Soooooooo much of the likes of TGCL and Scotts and........................
    Their marketing tactics are deplorable.

    BUT, as an independant just trying to educate the customer without excessive sales hype it may work...............
  5. BackAcreFarm

    BackAcreFarm LawnSite Member
    Messages: 52

    I'm not a typical homeowner, but I think your questions are good and show that you're trying to build your business.

    I live on a farm and the lawn (and house for that matter) can't be seen from the road, nobody is going to drive by and see how it looks. I also am mowing about 4 acres including lawn, roadsides, orchard, blueberry patch, fence line, trees, etc. I'm afraid I wouldn't like the price to have someone do it.

    Besides, since I got my Deere 777, I like to mow!

    If I was looking though ...

    I appreciate professionalism. I want to see nice equipment, not junk. I want to see the boss once in awhile, not just the hired help. I want the crew to be neat looking, I understand they get dirty during the day, but I want them to look like they started the day clean. I don't want to wonder if they're casing the place to come back later when no one is home.

    I'd probably ask people for recommendations about who they use, or the yellow pages.

    I'd ask for addresses of places they maintain and drive by to look at them. I doubt if I'd actually talk to the owners, I value my privacy and would respect theirs.

    Insurance is critical, I don't want somebody getting hurt and suing. I don't particularly care about certification, I assume anybody could get certified.

    I like the periodic health check idea. I'd expect you to look at things I hadn't thought of or don't know how to do. I'd like to hear recommendations, without a sales pitch.

    Demonstrate your expertise.

    Hope this helps ...
  6. bobcat175

    bobcat175 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 377

    1. Nice equipment doesn't have to be latest and greatest but not a 21 push for an acre lot. Leave the site clean - at least the way it was found.

    2. Professionalism. job well done. Attention to detail is key.

    3. I enjoy doing my own lawn. The pride of a well maintained lawn is my reward. I am easily in the top 5 lawns for my street and i'm on main street. $$ was never the issue - i grew up not mowing my lawn (condo) so I like doing this now that i'm on my own.

    4.friends, look at nice lawns and see who does them. Recommendations. I also have friends that are in the business.

    5. Never thought about it. I guess it's an issue but not that high.

    6. I wouldn't care

    7. I would confront first. Depends on the issue i guess.

    8. Nope

    9. that would be great. Nice way to gauge performance/results. Honest opinion with discussion with homeowner.
  7. TSM

    TSM LawnSite Senior Member
    from MA
    Messages: 707

    Good questions NickN. Good survey.

    Im a bit taken back that so far nobody seems to care if their lawn applicator is certified?? But judging from my own market area, I see many appling lawn products without proper licensing. Heres something to think about (i hope) If the lawn applicator is nor properly licensed, he most likely is not properly insured.

    A question for BackAcreFarm...you state that you'd like to see the owner now and then, not just the hired help. This interest me because i find myself dealing with customers who say the same thing (keep in mind our service is fertilizer, weed controls, insect controls, so we are generally scheduled to be on a particular property about once every 6-7 weeks. Also keep in mind we are all properly licensed, trained, insured) I have customers who insist I be the guy who works on their lawn....So, what do I do with the hired help?, let them wait in the truck?, I do the work and the help get paid for sitting?? I personally train all of our guys. They must ride with me for at least one full season, this is after getting properly licensed. I feel the hired guy is just an extension of me. So my question.....would it be to my advantage to let the hired help go, I'd also have to dramaticly drop customers, raise my prices for those who only will be happy seeing my self on their property....or continue as we are, and simply drop the customer who insist on me servicing their property. See, I feel if they do not want one of my trained employees, then they do not accept my judgement.
    I know how I will handle this situation, it comes up from time to time. I'm just curious to here other opinions on this issue.
  8. BackAcreFarm

    BackAcreFarm LawnSite Member
    Messages: 52

    I don't have a problem with the hired help doing the work, it's entirely possible they know more about what they are doing than the owner. But the owner has the financial interest in how the job is done and how satisfied I am. I'd like him to stop by once in awhile, look things over, and ask my opinion of his crew. It would let me know he cares about the job being done, not just getting my check on time.

    I don't care about the certification I guess, because I don't know much about it. I assume (and I'm probably wrong) that the license is a way the city/county/state generates revenue, and if you just show up and pay them they will issue the license. I get the idea from reading this forum that there's more involved than that.

    Maybe you need to find a way to educate your customers about what it means to be licensed and certified.

    If you just show up and tell me your crew is licensed and certified, I don't care. But if you show up and tell me your crew is licensed and certified, which means they have attended classes, passed tests, proven they know what various chemicals do and how they interact, proven they can recognize problems and know how to take care of them, etc. I start to get interested. I start to think that having your crew fertilize my yard will be better than if I just go to Home Depot, buy a few bags of whatever and spread it myself.

    As I've said, I'm not in the business, but I would think you'd have customers with different priorities. Some just don't have time to do it themselves and just want it cut so the neighbors don't complain. Others want the neighbors to notice how nice it looks. Some probably want to hire someone because they want a showcase.

    The customers in the first category could care less about your training/licensing, etc. Just mow it.

    For the customers who care about how it looks you need to let them know that you can do it better than they can. "Value Add" says you're not just mowing grass, you are managing the general health of lawns and landscaping plants, controlling pests, avoiding problems, doing something I can't do.

    I think this is a good survey, obviously you are interested in building your businesses. Hopefully the comments help.
  9. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Messages: 1,009

    State certification is completely different from licensing.For someone to obtain a state certification(required by law in Alabama) one must apply to take the test by listing experience and examples.Then you have to go to one of 4-5 sites in the state and take a test.If I remember correctly,our test was 7 or 8 pages long,no multiple choice,all fill in the blank,for landscaping.Questions were based on proper amounts of fertilizers for turf and trees,naming and defining the different types of soils and their properties,limes(calcium cabronate,dolomite,calcium sulphate,etc),mulches,etc.,,
    proper pruning techniques for various plants,proper planting techniques for different plants,proper turfgrasses for different situations and so on.
    It took me about 6 months from start to finish(waiting on the government) to finally get my certification,so I have alot of time invested in it.
    I have found your thoughts to be the same around my area though.Prospective clients think that anyone can go and just lay down some money and they're certified.Not true.
    My next step is either pesticide certification or landscape design certification.Leaning towards pesticide,since I often get asked to perform this task.
  10. Simplyhere

    Simplyhere LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    OK, I'll weigh in too:

    Ditto on the professionalism and a firm grasp of the english language. We're all familiar with those people who are absolutely brilliant, but not very articulate. In a nice neighborhood, you simply expect someone to be intelligent enough to come across as well versed in the craft, or as someone else said "They have to know more than me."

    I've had people do my lawn at a couple of different houses I've owned (although I do my own now). I have yet to look in the Yellow Pages. In each instance, I got the name and number from a truck/trailer sign, while driving by and being able to see the kind of work being performed. Unlike a plumber or electrician, an LCO's work is totally on display for all to see.

    Insurance would probably be a factor, but not one I would verify. In other words, if it says "licensed/insured" on the sign (or business card), I wouldn't go to the trouble to verify it. That's probably stupid, but I wouldn't.

    If I wasn't satisfied with a service, I would most definitely call my "contact". If that was the owner, fine. If that was the crew, fine. I'd attempt to work it out with the LCO before cancelling the service.

    I believe that the "certified applicator" title is simply not understood by the average homeowner. I know I certainly was unaware of the difficulty and level of expertise needed where apps were concerned before coming to this site. I believe a good idea for ANY LCO is to provide, at the time of contract signing, a brief but thorough 1-2 page summary of the company history, various licensures, professional affiliations, certifications...heck, for that matter, it wouldn't be a bad idea to list some of the "staff" and a few brief sentences about their credentials, etc. The worst that will happen is the paper will be ignored, and tossed. Big deal. The best that will happen is that some of that "I insist on the owner handling my property" will be mitigated. Also, it's a perfect opportunity to educate the consumer on the differences between lawn maintenance, landscaping, hardscaping, applications, etc.

    As for the monthly summary of potential issues, etc. with regard to the lawn, ABSOLUTELY. As long as that isn't heavy handed, I'd want it.

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