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Unhappy Customer

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by tfilbert, May 6, 2005.

  1. tfilbert

    tfilbert LawnSite Member
    Messages: 61

    Ok here goes. I had a customer call and raise the roof with my wife while I was out working. He told her he was pissed off at the quality of work. Missed areas trimming, plants cut down, grass every where and stains on driveway. My wife calls me and was very upset a customer had talked to her like that. I called the customer back and listen to what he had to say. I had a new helper with me that day and we were rushing pretty fast so I just listened to the comments. I told him I could do one of three things. Cancel his service and not charge for the cut. Get some glue and put the flowers back together. Re-do the job. By this time he had calmed down and said no but please don't bring that person back again. HE WAS RIGHT! My new helper sucks and I had to let them go. Did more damage to bottom of fence line then I care to mention. Yes I took the time to show how to use a string trimmer and explained the standards before they started. When I showed up this week we walked the property together and he showed me everything. It was much less then he at first thought. No grass laying around but a few places missed and a few flowers cut down. I explained I wanted his satisfaction but could not allow customers to vent at my wife. Tell me what you want but go easy on the wife or you and I have a problem. He was very sorry about that and said so. Now some things you don't know: His wife is dying of cancer and he has pretty bad health problems himself. You can tell he loves her very much and will do anything he can to make her happy. She is still able to plant a few flowers but only can work a few minutes at a time.
    I knocked 10.00 off the last cut and arrived with some new flowers and offered to plant them. He said that was OK, she would enjoy doing it. We both agreed events just didn't work out that day and he really was happy with my service, just not what my helper had done. I fired them the day it happened by the way. Now many of you on this site will tell me he will fire me in a few weeks, months, etc because he is just a PITA. If he does OK but it won't be because I didn't try to keep him happy. I'm not kissing anything, just doing what I feel is the right thing to do. My name is on this company and I'm proud of every job I do. If not I make corrections or take what ever action is necessary to make it right. If I were to lose a customer I would take it personal. What else is it if not personal. I am the company. Some people need to re-read this post because I get the impression they think they never do anything wrong. We all do and it takes a real leader to realize when they are wrong and make it right. If you have never told a customer "I'm sorry - I can fix that" maybe you better break that bubble you live in now. Not trying to degrade anyone here, just making a point. I don't want to lose business because I stuck my head in the sand and refused to listen to honest complaint. Customer satisfaction is job one. They hire you and not the other way around. Yes I do sometimes turn down new business because I can see it won't be worth it. Yes I to will avoid Indians from India because I have had problems with their way of doing things. No I don't give an estimate from a phone call without viewing the property. There is always a lot more to it when they just want a price, site unseen. All in all I treat everyone the way I want to be treated. Sorry to write so much but all the negative customer comments and PITA stories were getting to me. Just needed to vent I guess. Have a wonderful day and may you pick up at least one new account today.
  2. LawnScapers of Dayton

    LawnScapers of Dayton LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Dayton, OH
    Messages: 2,572

    good post.....thanks
  3. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    Great story Tim. Now see thats what customer service is all about. Alot of LCO's need to realize that its not just an account. Its a person, a family, and your maintaining one of the most important things to them. Thier home. I doubt that guy will drop you TIm because you showed you actually care for his yard and he is not just a plot of grass and a check to you. Anytime I use a helper besides my wife I either make sure they know what they are doing or rewalk the property and inspect before I go. I know you were in a hurry but I still make time. Grab a bottle of water and just take a glance around for 1 minute.
  4. br549oicu8

    br549oicu8 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,230

    Excellent professional caring post.
    I have a soft spot for older people as I believe you do also. That is a GOOD soft spot to have as we will all get there some day. I have had similar things happen. I would tell my crew about the complaint and that it needed corrected immediately. You know...if the guy that does the careless damage has to go with you and personally fess up and apologize it gives him a whole new outlook on what you have to do as a businessman. I have done that twice over 25 years and it makes a lasting impression on the employee.
  5. wojo23323

    wojo23323 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 608

    Good post. Things always work out better if everyone is calm.
  6. MowerMoney

    MowerMoney LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 281

    You did exactly the right thing whether or not they ever cancel your service. But I think that your sincere apology and replacing the flowers will go a long way in keeping this customer. Service is what this business is all about.

    In any job that I've ever had, I always found that when I owned up to my mistakes and even brought it to my boss's attention before it was noticed by someone else, that the reprecussions were very small. What's left to say except, "Be more careful next time".

    If tour not making ANY mistakes, it's because you're not doing ANYTHING AT ALL.
  7. Remsen1

    Remsen1 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,020

    I think you handled it perfectly. I think too many LCO's would get defensive and end up losing the customer in the process. I think you gave this guy a chance to show he wasn't just being a PITA, but maybe just blowing it out of proportion in the heat of the moment. If he talks to your wife like that again, well.....
  8. dkeisala

    dkeisala LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 911

    I think you handled the situation perfectly. It's an old cliche but sometimes it helps to put yourself in your customers shoes. If I paid someone to take care of my landscape, something I take enormous pride and enjoyment in, and they came in and made it look worse than before they showed up, I'd probably have a problem with them. You did everything you could to solve the problem and make everything right, it's out of your hands now. You learn more from your mistakes than you do your accomplishments.
  9. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,116

    I may be way off base here, but I'll bet you a coke that customer ends up firing you sooner than you expect. I hope I am wrong because you've done everything you can to keep them happy. But the fact that he over-exaggerated the damage is a red flag as far as I'm concerned. I have tried going back and making things right with chronic complainers and everytime I've been fired eventually anyway. He over-exaggerated the complaint...he's a chronic complainer in my book.

    His over-exaggeration of the complaint was a huge factor in your decision to fire an employee, was it not?

    I have never been impressed initially with any of my new employees. I am always comparing them to others. You know what? Everytime I've kept them around, I've come to realize that they are fine employees.

    I would never fire any of my employees for making a mistake. Employees are human and humans make mistakes. I can see if the mistakes are happening over and over and over and the guy is just too stupid to do any better. But if the guy is showing up to work on time and he's not complaining about the pay, and he's working hard, that's a big deal.

    My employees are far more important to me than any of my customers. Without my employees, I'd be dead in the water.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  10. LawnScapers of Dayton

    LawnScapers of Dayton LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Dayton, OH
    Messages: 2,572

    I once accidentially bumped a large clay planter at a customer prop....and the darn thing broke into 67 pieces.........I actually had my wife go and buy what she could find that was as close to the original as possible.........

    I mowed that prop basically for free that month......but the customer appreciated our effort and was satisfied. She has been a great client for 3 years since....

    I believe when you step up, accept responsibility and provide solutions, people will respect your efforts.

    It is so hard to find contractors that truely care about anything besides getting paid....congrats again.


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