Special Orders - Pain in the A#@%

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Jason Pallas, Mar 10, 2001.

  1. Jason Pallas

    Jason Pallas LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,335

    How do you guys handle cusomters that request the "all coveted" Thurs/Friday cuts? It poses so many problems in scheduling and routing. We try to schedule our most exclusive/highest paying accounts for those days and the "ghetto rentals" for Mondays, etc... Do you charge an extra premium for "end of the week" service? Of course all 450 of our customers prefer to be cut so that the lawn "looks good for the weekend" (even if it's a little old lady that never has visitors!).
    Also how do you handle the customer that, mid-season decides that they don't like the walkbehind mowers and demand that their lot be pushed!?!? Of course, they don't want to pay anymore and they want to be bagged too.
    My wife wants to tell them "I'm sorry - we obviously can't provide you with the type of service that you need". I'm inclined to tell her to begin doing this but, I thought I'd get some feedback first.

    This is a little akin to asking for a neighbor to give you a ride to the corner store for $5 - then abruptly announcing (after the neighbor agrees) that you'd like that ride not in his car - but piggyback! There's a little more effort and labor involved all of a sudden.
    Sorry for the long post.
  2. mdb landscaping

    mdb landscaping LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,205

    with 450 accounts, the risk of losing a couple because you cant mow them at the end of the week wont be all that bad. tell them the price will be more at the end of the week if you they want to be worked into the schedule and if they leave, they leave. it always balances out. most people around here prefer walk behinds. i dont know of anyone who push mows. mostly ztrs are big, but some people ask for walk behind service. charge the extra money.
  3. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Former Moderator
    Messages: 6,073

    Wow, 450 is a good deal of accounts.

    I think the answer to some of your problems lies when you first sign on your new customer. Obviously you know your routes.

    So when you give an estimate to someone that is not in your Thursday/Friday route, just tell them right off the bat.
    Since we will be in your area on Tuesday, this is when we will be able to maintain your property. Also we use all commercial walkbehinds which do provide a professional cut. If you insist on having your grass bagged, there will be an additional charge of X amount of dollars. Just nip these problems in the bud from the get go.

    So far this method has worked out well for us.

    As far as the 450 accounts, it might be best to compose a letter to your customers. Design your routes so that you can satisfy the most customers on Thursday and Friday. The rest are going to receive your letter which states something like.. due to our tremendous growth, we unfortunately will not be able to cut all of our 450 properties on Thursday and Friday. For you, insert customer's name, we will be in your area on Tuesday to service your lawn. We still will continue to provide you with top notch service. Take it from there.

    [Edited by 1MajorTom on 03-11-2001 at 02:04 AM]
  4. joshua

    joshua LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,226

    i simply tell my customers that when the yard needs cut i will be there that day, yes i have schedules and i make sure that all the yards are close. (meaning that if i cut your yard on friday i could be back wensday if it needs cut or in the summer maybe saturday) they really don't care when its cut because the strips stay in the yard until the next time i go back. but yes, some will ask hey next friday i have a cookout and would like the yard cut the day or 2 before, and i will, just to make them happy because they will want a extra like edging everything again and pulling weeds that they wouldn't pay for before. so i just charge them more and they just want everything to be perfect for the party so they don't question the costs..

    about what you said ghetto properties (lol) when those people ask me if i could even bid i tell them i'm to busy because i know when i get there the grass is gunna be 2 feet high the first time, trash in the yard, and other b.s. that i don't even want to deal with. jsut tell those people that are getting under your skin either pay more for what they want or drop them, you have 450 customers obviously your doing smething right so i'm positive you can find more,better jobs to replace them, and will turn out for the better..

    good luck in your decion
  5. GreenQuest Lawn

    GreenQuest Lawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 822

    I can see that being a problem if you have all res. I do about 50-50 so i do my commercial accts. on mon, Tue, and Wed. And my res. on Thurs. and Fri. But i agree with 450 accts. losing a few shouldnt hurt.
  6. kutnkru

    kutnkru LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,662

    We service our Commercial/Industrial accounts beginning on Mondays. This also includes rental properties as well. Residential accounts begin on Wednesday.

    What we have done is to determine where the most expensive neighborhoods were located that we service demographically. We then analyzed each of these to decide which were the most profitable. That is how we concluded which neighborhoods get cut on Fridays. Unfortunately if we went by who was willing to pay extra for the day, I would need two Fridays a week, and not have to cut any other day of the week -LOL.

    The one thing that you may want to try is explaining to these high-end accounts that you begin cutting Residential accounts on Wednesday and it should not be a problem to have them cut by the start of the weekend.

    These conversations will usually go something like this:
    Mrs. Jones: I really need to have our lawn cut on Friday so that it looks its best for the weekend. This is the time when we do most of our entertaining.
    I understand that you are looking to have your lawn in the same meticulous shape as the country club for functions. We start our routes on Wednesdays and cannot guarantee you a cutting on Friday itself. However, we do cut our more manicured properties closer to the weekend. So if we were to cut you Thursday afternoon or early Friday morning there truly will not be a noticeable amount of growth overnight.
    Mrs. Jones: I just want to make sure that things will look their best for our dinner parties this summer.
    That should not be a problem. If you have a special function please call us by Wednesday and we can adjust our schedule to accommodate your lawn care needs. And you can rest assured that we will have your property looking its best by 530 when you come home from work Friday evening.

    This is how I smooth them over. All of these clients want the same thing: To know that we wont be there before the end of the week or after the start of the weekend. To date we have handled them all like this and it has worked well for us.

    dictating equipment
    This would depend on if the property has a lot of ornamental beds, and if there are numerous other obstacles. I would figure an average of $5-7/msf. If you would normally get $30-35 for a 10m/sf property, plan on $50-70 for cutting them with a 21 inch unit. This service must be more because you will be spending quite a bit more time for you to do it correctly.

    We have one client who wont allow commercial w/b anymore because the last contractor tore the lawn to shreds by running heavy ride on equipment on his front sloped turf areas. His property is 23/m sf and takes us 3 man-hours to complete.

    We were charging him $25 a man-hour as a discounted rate for other properties included with his home, and this spring he okayed a hike to $85/cut. We will be cutting him 32 times. This price is also for bagging, he doesnt want it dispersed or mulched.

    If clients are not willing to compensate your company for the difference in time that it will take you to bring their lawn to the appearance they are requesting, then you should refer them to another contractor who can waste his time for pennies on the dollar.

    hopefully this termpaper will help.
  7. oneEXMARKfan

    oneEXMARKfan Banned
    Messages: 254

    Ghetto properties are 80% of what I get(have) to cut. Step father ownes TOO MANY! I just get to cut them when he gets a letter from Codes. (guess that's why my Exmark has only 20 hours on it) Just me and my Shindaiwa battleing weeds 6' tall, and trash you would not believe. [can't figure out the poorest people can afford to buy that much liquor. One vacant lot I cut always haves atleast 50 whiskey/beer bottles]
  8. Jason Pallas

    Jason Pallas LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,335

    A lot of this echoes my senitments/opinions already. Thanks. We've got the routes designed so that the commerical/industrials and ghetto rentals get done Mondays/Tuesdays. Then we start in on the residential routes according to affluency / area /. It's worked real well for us, but we still get a lot of requests for Thurs/Fri that we just don't have room for.
    As per the trend in this area against Walkbehinds and Riders - the recent influx of hacks who've really gnarled alot of people's lawns has really soured a lot of residents on these machines. I usually tell them that our operators are very well trained and ask them to give us a try. That usually works. Although, some still insist on small mowers and nearly drop dead when I explain to them that the price is double or triple because of the increased time. People just don't get it.
  9. Nathan

    Nathan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 193

    Our policy is to give all new customers an option, along with some reasoning. If you tell them that the contract is for x dollars and since the most desirable space is thurs/fri it comes at a premium so add x% to the initial contract. The only time we change this is for very desirable customers that fit into an area we already service on the day they want. Even then we are sure to let the people know they are getting preferential treatment.

    When people have an option they choose based on their resources and needs. You wouldn't go out and buy a new car with leather interior if you didn't have the money and it didn't matter.
  10. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,411


    Listen to your wife.

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