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New and could use some tips on dealing with customers.

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by Hondaplowguy, Dec 24, 2008.

  1. Hondaplowguy

    Hondaplowguy Junior Member
    Messages: 16

    I started working for myself in March. I do spring cleanups, power raking, aerating, etc. in the spring. In the Summer I mow, landscape, pressure wash, and do skidsteer work. Obviously fall is leaf cleanup, gutters, and sprinkler blowouts. I'm setup pretty good for snow removal and had a good start but now it seems as though some of customers have unreasonable expectations. When the snow is less than 3-4" they turn me down when I initially show up and they say they will let it sit or do it themselves since it is not much. At this point I get somewhat pissed because they had originally said to show whenever it snows. So after a couple of days of people walking all over it and vehicles tracking in the driveways we get another couple inches of snow and they say go ahead and do it this time. Well they can't seem to understand why I leave the packed car tire marks in there driveway. I explain that if I had gotten to do there lot when it originally snowed and when I showed the first time we wouldn't be having this conversation and that if they want packed in driveways super clean it will cost extra. So now about 1/3 of my customers are sort on the down and outs with me but I don't feel it should cost the same because its 3 times the work after its all packed into ice virtually. Sorry for the long intro and rant but I had to explain myself. Any info would be helpful.
  2. 6feetdeep

    6feetdeep Senior Member
    Messages: 141

    You'll have that for a while. Then you'll weed out the PITA's, and get some better (more reasonable) customers. It takes a few snows to 'train' the customer to how you work with them.
    As long as you are communicating the problems/ concerns with your customers, that is all you can do. Stress to them the liability you carry for leaving snow/ ice in their driveway, explain to them how it affects your ability to do a good job, and the extra wear/ tear on your equipment. Remember, you are the professional, they need to put some trust in your handling of the situation. If this is not reasonable to them, they need to find another service provider, or understand why there is snow left in their drive after you've been there.
    I think we are seeing more and more penny pinchers as of late due to the economy.
  3. theplowmeister

    theplowmeister 2000 Club Member
    from MA
    Messages: 2,511

    When I sign up customers I tell them I start at 2" And why I start at 2" If they want 3 or 4 inch starts, I explain the plow will not get the driveway clear of snow. The drive will have snow until it melts.
  4. Hondaplowguy

    Hondaplowguy Junior Member
    Messages: 16

    Its kind of funny. I have customers very pleased and they tip me every time. Yet at the next house I get nothing but grief and I do the same exact job. Our typical city sidewalks are 48" wide. My 48" plow on the ATV angled to roll the snow out into the street drops my width to about 46". I had a lady complain saying she wanted the entire 48" done. I can't believe someone could be so petty.
  5. KGRlandscapeing

    KGRlandscapeing 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,660

    There even worse now that money is tight. Some our completely unreasonable, I probably made them that way though. Because i go out of my way to do a good job. Now most of my good customers have seen bad service some have left and came crawling back. Sometimes you just have to walk away. In this line of work theres always cheaper and theres always worse. Quality work some time and keep your cool. It will work out
  6. dirtmandan2

    dirtmandan2 Senior Member
    Messages: 274

    A plow will not do as clean of a job as a shovel, I explain this to new customers. I also discuss triggers in the fall with new customers, they range from 1.5" to 6" ... My 6" customers get done whenever we accumulate 6". I won't plow a driveway for someone that only wants it done when we get a huge snowfall, its not worth tearing up a truck for someone you'll plow 2 x's a year.
  7. Winterized

    Winterized Senior Member
    Messages: 120

    Some people are really that stupid..... some people just play stupid trying to get a response from you to their benefit.

    If you have done a good job for a fair price, you can try explaining the situation. If they cannot understand, be polite and professional, tell them they should contact someone else for this service.

    If they were just trying to jerk you around they may backdown. If not.... you move on and work for someone else that can understand and appreciate a job done well. It is much more satisfying at the end of your route to feel good about yourself.... knowing you made an honest buck and people appreciated your efforts.

    It takes time.... their are lots of people out there that are willing to work for nothing... but I cannot.
  8. hydro_37

    hydro_37 PlowSite Veteran
    from iowa
    Messages: 3,790

    Don't let the complainers get you down. Do a good job and you will get the "better" customers in time.
  9. elite1msmith

    elite1msmith 2000 Club Member
    from chicago
    Messages: 2,762


    my personal complaint of the day is by ME , yes ME

    here we all are at there beck and call . if they call and we dont show up in 15 mins, or even a few hrs, they get pissy and hire someone else that jsut happens to pull into their lot, or they shovel their own drive cuz you were there at 7 am

    well , were the FREAK, is my PAYCHECK? hmmmmm.... i sent the invoice like 3 weeks ago , with net 15 on it? so that means what its 10 days late? or somethinglike that.... hmmmm i have to service you in 15 mins time, but you can be 10 days or more late:eek:
  10. hotshotgoal30

    hotshotgoal30 Junior Member
    Messages: 23

    i get a few of those people who like to wait and call after it snows 2 feet and decide that they want to get out now and the drift in front of the garage door are about 3 or 4 feet high. most of my customers are contracts so they know im there with 3 inches. but the ones that call per time i can usually say are grateful because they can now get out. on the other hand some complain because they dont see blacktop or concrete. its like dude there is 2 feet of snow and you waited till it stopped snowing to call me what do you expect me to do for 25 or 30 bucks? im not gunna get out with a ice scrapper. those are the ones you learn there number and dont answer.
  11. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    It takes a while to get this part of the business down. I have a couple of complainers like this. We had a couple of small storms to start the season. 12/17 a couple of inches. I did all my drives, here's why. It had been warm, but going to get real cold. Two storms brewing in the next couple days, one might be big. I took my time and uncovered as much lawn without damage as I could so it could freeze up solid. Plus it's easier to plow the first time with a little snow so you can remember where stuff is. I explained this to a couple customers that asked, no problem. 12/20 another couple inches. Now the Sunday night storm is a full blown Nor'easter. Hit em all again, except the guy who complains all the time. A couple more comments, remind them a big storm is coming. Or course everyone on the Sunday-Tuesday plowing debacle. When people ask/complain, I explain that I have to do business in a way that allows me to provide top quality services while protecting their property and my equipment. I also explain that it is difficult to do a good job if I am sliding around on frozen tire tracks. Finally, I charged the same for all three storms. I was back at least once to every drive on the big storms, some a couple of times. I also remind the customers of that. During those early storms I had some come out to thank me for plowing, some complain. Went up on a couple of prices too. Some send a check and thank you in two days, one (so far) cancelled. She was a PITA anyway. Decide how you want to do business, and stick to it.
  12. thatsnowproblem

    thatsnowproblem Junior Member
    Messages: 5

    You say you provide landscaping services too? You're probably familiar then with those people who decline the polymer sealant on a paver patio and call 3 years later when the pavers start to buckle ... or customers who think aerating looks so "simple" they can just rent a machine and do it themselves ... or those who only want pruning done once every 5 years??? These are the same folks you're dealing with now ... only it's snow. Part of the problem sometimes is just being new and not having enough confidence...and the penny pinchers see that and push back because they can. I agree with the earlier posts that say YOU are the professional - you know what it takes to do a good job and what will make it a tough one. For people who are PITAs, they're not worth your time. While you're debating with them you could be off doing 1 or 2 or more jobs. I find if I explain what will happen if they choose to NOT have me do the job the best way I know how, then there will be consequences. There's a nice professional way to say this. Ex: "OK, sir/ma'am ... if you don't want me to plow when there's less than 3/4" please know that my guarantee of a good clean driveway when I do come is not valid" - then explain why (tracks, packing, etc.). Whhen they know ahead of time what may happen, it typically strips an power of complaint afterward. If it doesn't, then you know who to refer to your competition...I totally agree with the way 2COR517 put it: do business in a way that provides top quality service while also protecting their property and your equipment. (also keep in mind the time factor - if you charge a flat rate, the longer you're there, the less $ it is for you...I've had that happen way too many times to let it go on and on).
    Sometimes, especially with my Spring/Summer customers, I mentally factor in a "frustration factor" in the charges ... i.e., is this job going to irk me in some way, either by the way the land is laid out or by the customer him/her self? I want to do the best I can while not feeling like I gave away the store!

    Good luck ... in time and with experience you'll get things settled down...
  13. Hondaplowguy

    Hondaplowguy Junior Member
    Messages: 16

    I've stood my ground with snow removal just as I did with mowing, fall cleanups, and firewood sales. I often find myself with less work than my competition but on the other hand some of them are working for way too cheap. This summer was a good example with these two kids that had just graduated high school that started a little mowing operation. They had work from sun up to sun down everyday but they still weren't getting anywhere because they were mowing for half price. Now I see they are shoveling sidewalks and driveways by hand. Considering they are out there doing this stuff for about the same money they would make at Walmart I'm guessing they will tire out and give up. In the mean time they are stealing much needed work from the real guys in the business.
  14. thatsnowproblem

    thatsnowproblem Junior Member
    Messages: 5

    Yeah, I know what you mean about kids and cheap labor. We have that problem here too, only more of 'em and harder to keep track of. They put ads out on Craig's List and eswpecially with snow they eventually stop showin' up. Then customers call the rest of us either confused or upset wanting someone to come clean up a big mess or grilling the new service for whether they're "reliable" or not. I have a couple customers now who learned from last year who they can count on. As far as your kids out there, I agree - they'll get tired out or they'll figure there's an easier way to make the same amount of money ... in some business outside of yours!
  15. HALH VT

    HALH VT Senior Member
    from Vermont
    Messages: 127

    I have a policy on "will calls":

    You get done last.

    I bill time and material at twice the normal rate.

    If I have the SLIGHTEST PROBLEM plowing it, the truck gets parked and I bring in the heavy iron, all by the hour and with moving charges.

    I can't abuse my poor old truck and ignore my regular accounts to save you a few bucks.
  16. snowman3

    snowman3 Junior Member
    Messages: 23

    I'm new to plowsite but I enjoyed reading the comments on how to deal with customers.I do maintenance on commercial/residential property.I take care of snowremoval from steps and sidewalks,the plowing is done by somebody else.I have had to let go of customers due to them being too unreasonable.No matter how good a job you do....there is always that one PITA that will complain.
  17. Blazin

    Blazin Senior Member
    Messages: 185

    I explain the reasons to them. Then I explain I am the professional, I leave my house when the snow reaches approx. 2".
    I don't let the customer dictate when I plow, or sand. When they call up complaining I tell them to feel free and hire someone else. They usually back down.
  18. slowhand11404

    slowhand11404 Junior Member
    Messages: 15

    Interesting discussion!!!!
  19. Hondaplowguy

    Hondaplowguy Junior Member
    Messages: 16

    One other MAJOR problem I have is that it seems like 1 in every 10 households has an ATV with plow and that individual feels its his civic duty to do free snow removal for entire city block radius. On average I'd say their is over $20,000 worth of snow removal done for free in my town every time it snows.
  20. ERCKWD

    ERCKWD Member
    Messages: 32

    Get everything in writing. If you want a trigger at 2" for the season tell them that, and write it up in a contract. No matter what happens be professional. I have always found that if customers have a problem they will tell more people than if they are satisfied. If they continue don't re-up them for next year.