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How to Handle In and Out Clients?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Dougman, Jan 2, 2008.

  1. Dougman

    Dougman Member
    from MA
    Messages: 83

    I've decided to put into effect a policy of NOT re-accepting seasonal contract clients who cancel for convenience and then want to sign up again right before the next big forecasted storm. Looks rather obvious that they are just jerking me around by wanting the (lower) seasonal contract price for what really amounts to pick-n-choose off-contract runs... for which I usually charge an extra $15.00 per push. To complicate matters even more, by prior arrangement, the majority of my one-off calls are actually handled by my backup guys. The backup guys are objecting to these de facto one-offs pretending to be steady contract customers and costly them money they see themselves entitled to per our agreement.

    And so I ask: What do you do when seasonal contract customers cancel... and then want to sign back up again for the very next large storm?

    Dougman
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2008
  2. big acres

    big acres Senior Member
    Messages: 653

    Explain to them that of course it may not be their intention, but you have valid business concerns related to this on again, off again service.

    Then offer them a per-time schedule with price brackets for depth of snowfall, which will ensure you get paid well for the big ones.

    Lastly, make them agree in writing to a $20 monitoring fee, meaning that if you drive-by and they have shoveled themselves though snowfall has exceeded your service activation depth, you charge them $20 to cover your travel expenses. Tell your subs that they get the $15 for the drive-by hassle and keep $5 for administrative work.

    If they balk at this then they will never be a customer worth having.
     
  3. Dougman

    Dougman Member
    from MA
    Messages: 83

    Your concept is excellent and not unlike some of the ideas I had such as an administrative fee for contract reinstatement and/or a non-refundable multi-storm retainer.

    The difficulty comes in with my backup guys who quite understandably feel I would be reducing their part of the bargain... namely, the lucrative one-off business that essentially enables them to take on contract backup work in the first place. The monitoring fee is a great idea... but who ends up doing the monitoring and getting the monitoring fee? :confused:

    In the end, just saying no might be the best move for everyone.

    Dougman
     
  4. big acres

    big acres Senior Member
    Messages: 653

    Yeah, just saying no would sure solve it. I was suggesting that your subs get the drive-by fee to keep them happy.
     
  5. ahoron

    ahoron Senior Member
    from here
    Messages: 422

    Just tell them you are to busy with CUSTOMERS or make thempayuppayuppayup
     
  6. DUMZ

    DUMZ Senior Member
    Messages: 153

    I've got a few of these... they are on my will call when needed list... I charge them about more then I charge my other accounts... But I tell them right up front that I would be cheaper for them to be on my regular push list...
     
  7. ProSeasons

    ProSeasons Senior Member
    Messages: 624

    What fun is that? Big Acres' way is MUCH more fun! Some of those idiots accept the new terms!
     
  8. Dougman

    Dougman Member
    from MA
    Messages: 83

    In practice, that really means giving them over entirely to the backup service if it wants them... which I have done with other customers I didn't want (but never in these circumstances).
    Preferably BOTH! ;)

    Dougman
     
  9. Dougman

    Dougman Member
    from MA
    Messages: 83

    That's what I don't currently have: a "will call when needed" list. I have a full load of contractual clients (plus a waiting list) and then I have folks simply calling on the phone. Calling for one-offs multiple times doesn't buy you anything special in my book. Maybe it should, but I don't see any advantage.

    Dougman
     
  10. Dougman

    Dougman Member
    from MA
    Messages: 83

    Well, to me the matter of fairness with the backup guys is more important. I am also sick of putting together contracts for customers who stay for one or two storms and then kiss you off 'cause they got their antique blower working again or some other lame excuse... maybe to call you back later or maybe not.

    Dougman
     
  11. ppandr

    ppandr Senior Member
    Messages: 619

    This is exaclty what we did this year...with no acceptions. One thing not mentioned in this post is LIABILITY. All our accounts are on a season contract (billed per event) that strictly limits our liability to plowing the driveway in a reasonable time frame, period. We outline charge parameters, terms, storm definition (time frame) and omissions such as refreeze of melting snow, drifting, residual snow left after plowing, etc. We also salt residentials if they elect for such service when they sign the contract. The contact states that we are only responsible for applying salt at the manf. recommended rates and it specifically states that we are not to be held accountable for the performance of the salt. At the end of the day, the few extra dollars we make off call ins is not worth the risk of a lawsuit. Granted anyone can choose to file against you for something stupid and f-up yor credit rating for 7 years(one lawsuit=40pts on your credit score+letters from lawyers for every credit related purchase/finance).
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2008
  12. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    My method is simple, straightforward and easily understood. If a customer "fires" me, I will never plow for them again. I let them know it up front when I start plowing. That way, if they do something like you're talking about, as soon as they cancelled the agreement, they'd better start looking for a new plow guy.
     
  13. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 27,961

    Same here.
     
  14. Dougman

    Dougman Member
    from MA
    Messages: 83

    By "firing" do you mean dropping out of the contract??? I don't think anyone would describe my situation as having been fired in some ugly or dissatisfied customer way. None of these folks appear to be signing up with other plowing services. These are clearly "frugal" people who wish to pick and choose their storms for plowing... but still get the lower contract rate while doing so.

    Ironically, my snowplowing contract (and also the agreement with the backup service) does allow my seasonal clients to suspend service on a per-storm basis but no one seems to want to exercise that provision. Go figure.

    Dougman
     
  15. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 27,961

    I don't mean to put words in Micks type, but by "firing" I mean that if a seasonal contract were to call me up in the middle of the season and refuse full payment, they are no longer a seasonal contract, they are immediately a per time account, or on call.

    At that point, I decide do I need to do a per time account or not?? I'll inform the account that since they are now a per time account, they will be put at the end of the list, since seasonal accounts get priority. If the account is okay with that, then they will be put on a trigger, meaning every 2", they get plowed regardless. If they are not okay with that, then they will be told they will be plowed when they call, and will be at the end of the seasonal list, at the end of the per time list, and at the end of the cleanup list. It could be 2 days before they get plowed, because I WILL be sleeping in there somewhere as well.

    Basically, by this time, everything has been done to get them to either get them to pay upfront now for the seasonal pricing, or to find a different service provider.
     
  16. Dougman

    Dougman Member
    from MA
    Messages: 83

    Ha!!! :D Good logical approach! ;)

    Clearly, if someone fires you in some ugly dispute you are never gonna want to work for them again. Everyone understands that. That's just common sense.

    On the other hand, these folks seem to be looking for *backup* to their rusty old snowblower or to the nephew who comes by sometimes with his shovel but doesn't come by other times when the going gets tough... etc., etc., etc.

    For whatever reason, they do not choose to exercise the provision of my contract that allows seasonal clients to opt-out one storm at a time with sufficient advance notice. If they did that, there would be no dispute with me or the backup service. But instead, they choose to activate a contract... then drop the contract... then start it up again at the next really big storm. They do not understand the wasted time and business cost I incur doing this. They do understand that it means a $15 PP break (if they can get me to do it) against the one-off rate... and they do prefer me doing the plowing over the backup service.

    The bigger issue (for me) is still fairness to my backup guys. I am not out to zing or avoid plowing anybody. But the nonsense has got to stop. Hence my new policy. Sounds like I am not that far off from consensus thinking.

    Dougman
     
  17. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    No, by "fire" I'm not meaning an ugly split - obviously I'd never want to go back there anyway. My meaning is a little harsh, I know, but I mean having me quit plowing for any reason including changing the agreement during a season. Like I explained to the last customer I signed up - I plow for one money for any depth over the trigger but I plow every 6-8". For seasonals, I collect half up front and half by Feb 1st or all up front the customer's choice. So, what COULD happen, is they have me plow the 6-8" storms, then not want the 3" storms plowed and let it pile till the next one and have me plow again. Then they'd be getting the bigger ones plowed for the money I intended that I'd be plowing some small ones and it would average out. Not going to happen and would be considered "fired" when they called for me not to plow the little one. And, yes, it's been tried. No, it didn't work. I considered I was fired - - informed them of that and never went back.
     
  18. Scottscape

    Scottscape Senior Member
    Messages: 662

    Thats why we have a $150.00 early termination penalty. If you don't have one, you will have this all the time.
     
  19. Dougman

    Dougman Member
    from MA
    Messages: 83

    Now I get your full meaning. Thanks for explaining! :)

    In regard to the two-storm snow buildup example, that would not happen in my particular case because I would simply charge them for an extra push.

    Dougman
     
  20. Dougman

    Dougman Member
    from MA
    Messages: 83

    I've got to assume that is on a pre-agreed, full season contract... and that makes very good sense. My contracts are for the full season... but billing is on an actual "per push" basis. Sorry if my terminology here has mixed anyone up.

    Even still, it would be awfully nice to have an early termination fee. I just don't think I could get away with it in my market.

    Dougman