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Scheduling Estimates

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by TGCummings, Apr 13, 2002.

  1. TGCummings

    TGCummings LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 773

    My working hours are 7:30 to 5:30, Monday through Friday. This scheduled time is for everything except office work, which I might pick up on weekends if I get busy.

    Today, I got a call from a potential new customer who goes to work at 7:00 and gets home at 6:30, M-F, and wanted to know if I could come give her a quote on lawn care around her schedule. She keeps her back gate locked and wanted to be their to unlock it. My wife took the call and told her we'd get back to her.

    When I arrived home (from grocery shopping, it's Saturday for chrissakes!) I told my wife to return the call and let her know I'd be there between 9 AM and 10 AM on Tuesday morning, so just leave the gate unlocked. The lawn is on my Tuesday route so I'll be there at that time.

    My wife got a message machine and so left the message.

    It got me thinking afterward, though, about what others do in this predicament. Do you juggle your schedule to meet a quote, or go before or after business hours at each call? It's Saturday, and it's warm out, so I'm going around in shorts, a tank top, and sandals. I'm going that way later today so I thought about letting her know I could swing by real quick and take measurements, but she'll have to pardon my attire. It is my day off, after all.

    My thinking is nobody knows my schedule like I know my schedule. If you want a quote I'm always happy to give one free, but I'll let you know when I'm coming by. You don't have to be there, because I know what I'm looking at, but you're certainly welcome to be there if you'd like to meet me and discuss any unusual specifics.

    If a locked gate is a problem for me giving a quote, then it'll later be a problem with my cutting schedule, right?

    At any rate, I'm pretty hard-nosed about this sort of thing. New customers are welcome, and about 20 are necessary at this time, but I can't take 'em if I can't work 'em into my schedule.

    Am I right?
  2. Nebraska

    Nebraska LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525


    I do not think it's a matter of you being "right or wrong". It is rather a matter of how you want to manage your own business.
    It will all depend upon your flexibility and how may customers you want to add; the more you want the more flexible you will have to be in meeting their needs. Keep in mind that there will be someone that will "meet her needs and meet with her on her time".
  3. Sean Adams

    Sean Adams LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,597

    Your call, but what comes to mind is "what if....". What I mean is, taking a little extra time to extend yourself is proof you are very serious about customer service. It could turn out to be a great client, long term, who is looking to spend some serious money.... The question you may end up asking yourself is "What if I would have just set aside an extra half hour for that estimate?" Maybe even let her know that normally you do not do this, but you will make an exception for her... She may appreciate your effort and willingness to make an exception and sign you up for that reason alone.... Just a thought.

    Sean Adams
  4. Lanelle

    Lanelle LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,361

    An estimate is more than measurements and math. Its your opportunity to sell yourself, your business and all the reasons the client should pick you. Do it at a time when the client has the time and inclination to listen to you. I tend to hate early morning estimates because people need to rush off to work and I don't have their full attention. So, do the estimate when it pleases the customer but make it clear that the time of the service has to fit into your existing route and access must be assured. Turn your work schedule into a selling point. The client can enjoy her yard during the weekend. You won't be there interferring with her outdoor plans.
  5. garydale

    garydale LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 813

    I have more questions than answers at this point.

    How bad do you need this account?
    Is it just maintenance or something more?

    My thoughts:
    Idon't do appointment estimates! I have never met with a apotential customer wher they really needed to be their.( i' talking maintenance, not installs or construction.)

    I promise a detailed,wriitten estimate of my professional recommendations with prices hanging on their doorknob within 48 hrs.We can talk after they see what is needed.and if they can
    afford me.

    Usually get about 50% of quoted work.
    Didn't waste theirs or my time.

    They realize that they didn't think of half of the things they needed and I screen out shoppers or "pains in the neck" without wasting my time.

    You may not have that luxury, but you we learn how important your time is.
  6. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    I am not in desperate need for new work so maybe this means nothing:

    I never work for a client that can't take time out of their busy day to meet with me or my sales staff on something that should be very important to them. If it isn't important enough to them to meet us in person, which we like, than it probably isn't important enough to pay the top dollar that we ask for.

    Think about this:

    If you wanted someone to come to your house and give you a quote, wouldn't you want to be there? Wouldn't you try to arrange your schedule a little to meet the person coming to your home to look?
  7. TGCummings

    TGCummings LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 773

    Some very interesting, and diverse, opinions on this point. In fact, the last two responses were "I always meet with a customer" and "I never meet with a customer". ;)

    Let me add some thoughts:

    I know there's someone who will meet her exact needs, same as there's always someone who'll meet the needs of customers who want to pay half my rates, someone who'll always cut on weekends, and someone who'll always bag their clippings. I just don't think that's going to be me.

    I do need more work. The wife and I are in this for the long haul, and neither of us want her going back to work. I need about twice the schedule I have now to make ends meet, a little more than that to cover medical and retirement. But we're trying to set up our systems while we grow. I don't need the customer to be there. My rates are based on what I see and measure. I won't negotiate those rates. I won't cut a lawn on Thursday that's on my Monday route. I schedule quotes for the earliest time I am in the area, or the next opening in my schedule.

    I don't do it on weekends. Any of it. Because to me, my life outside the work is as important as my life inside the work. It's for our sanity, really. ;)

    Obviously, I'm a little more flexible than I'm sounding. If I wasn't, I wouldn't have opened this thread and asked this question. I keep asking that question "What if?", that Sean was talking about. But there's two sides to me on this: The side that wants as much business as possible as quickly as possible, by any means, and the side of me that wants to do it the way that feels right inside.

    At any rate, this is Sunday, close to 24 hours after the call. She never called back yesterday after the wife left the message and, if she doesn't call by Tuesday, I'll swing by her place on my route. If the gate is unlocked I'll take the measurement. If it's locked, I'll walk away.

    One way or another, I'm going to end up learning something. I promise.

    Anyone else out there schedule like I do?

    Anyone else think I'm just batty? ;)
  8. Nebraska

    Nebraska LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525

    I have the same view that you do to some point especially regarding the weekend thing. The only time we work weekends is because of rain during the week. Quite often it can be made up with long days during the week if it does rain. It's been a long time since I worked a Sunday.
  9. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    I think it's important to set boundaries. People ask if we work on Saturday and I emphatically reply with a no. My employees need time with their families and customers don't want equipment in their yards on Saturday.

    For scheduling of appiontments, I ask questions to determine how I want to set it up.

    I would prefer to meet with a good customer prospect rather than just drop a quote off at the door. My feeling is that a price dropped at the door is just that - they'll look at the price first without reading what they're getting. As well, face to face meetings mean I get a lot more information and can sell other work as well. How many times have I shown up for a "lawn installation for the back yard" and come away with a patio, bed installation and lawn install? Quite a few. So after a "phone interview" or initial needs analysis, I'll ask if they are available to meet during the day. Often people are available and will say, "I work close to home and could meet you at..." If not the 8 or 9 am meeting will work for some. When I used to ask when a convenient time for them to meet was - I would get, 7 pm during the week or Saturday's. Since I ask them about meeting during the day, people have unwittingly worked now around my schedule.

    For those that want a Saturday appointments I explain that those are the first appointments to go as they might imagine and I don't have a saturday appointment open for several weeks (rarely do I meet with people on Saturday). Then the customer is "forced" into choosing a day appointment or an early enough evening appointment that is convenient for us both.

    After qualifying the customer and it appears I may not want to work for them, I'll tell 'em I'll mail a bid. A quick driveby and high bid usually keeps me from working for those that I get a bad sense about.

    Sometimes I'll ask if I can come out independent of the customer being home or would they like to schedule an appointment. Many times people want to meet - and it's those jobs we often get.

    Meet with customers if you can, but do it as Nebraska said - within your own schedule and suit your needs. Yes you should be available to meet with your customers, but the measure of customer service is not by how much you sacrifice from your own life to meet their needs.
  10. Sean Adams

    Sean Adams LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,597

    Routing, scheduling, free time, family time.... I agree 100000% that it is important and should be factored in as a priority. It's one of those subjects where the same person could equally and emphatically support opposing views, which is where I am at with this thread. I was reading a post about "busy work" where it has been said that some clients assume that people in this industry will do anything and everything anytime anywhere for an extra buck. That should not be the case. But I think to service providers I have used - even attorneys and accountants - even employees of businesses.

    Had a terrible time when setting up my office having phone lines, fax line, cable lines, etc.... Had 3 different At&T crews come out and they couldn't figure out the problem. Finally this one tech showed up on a Saturday, looked over everything thoroughly, played with a few wires and said he wasn't sure either. BUT, he gave me his personal cell number and told me if it ever went wrong again, call him any time, any day and he'd come out on his own time. I took him up on that offer. He came out on a Sunday in the rain and fixed the problem. I offered him $25 and he wouldn't take it. Saw him at a restaraunt with his family a month later....guess who paid his tab? He started a small painting business on the side....Guess who got the painting job at my office?

    Business is business. Reorganizing your life and placing yourself at the mercy of your clients and prospects will get you nowhere fast. But one of the joys of having the autonomy of owning your own business is to pick and choose what you do and who you do it for. People remember those who are willing to serve them and take the extra step to make their life a little easier. The only factor left to consider is whether you will be genuinely rewarded for your extra effort or if they will feel that you are at their command. It leads right back to seeing and supporting both sides of this argument. Good subject, good opinions, and very interesting to see how everyone handles this.

    Sean Adams

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