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Seasoal Contracts, No Snow, and upset customers?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by BillA, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. BillA

    BillA Member
    from IL
    Messages: 60

    This may be parked in the wrong section, but lets face it this is where everyone hangs out anyway. Just wanted to get your guy's opinions on a little issue we are having

    we service only residential customers and offer both per-push and seasonal contracts. We are in central IL and haven't had a single snow event over 2" yet, up until now we haven't had any complaints from any of our seasonal customers as we try and make it very clear that seasonal removal is like an insurance policy...nice to have if you need it yada yada...and we are very clear on our trigger depth of 2". We charge a fair amount based on our average removals over the years..can of course lose on a bad winter and win on a light one.

    But this evening after getting about 3/4 of an inch of snow this afternoon, I have a customer calling me complaining because he got home from work and his drive wasn't plowed. He said we should have done it as a courtesy to our customers since they paid and we haven't had to do any work yet this year ( because I guess scheduling, marking drives, planning routes, prepping equipment, monitoring storms, marketing, ect is not work?). Point is do you think its better to stand your ground and explain we dont service until 2" or go clear the 3/4 of an inch off his drive? It seems like a battle of policy vs. customer service? Worried if i do it they will come to expect it all the time and if i dont they will of course be upset. Would appreciate any feedback or experiences from the guys who have delt with this before.

    My mantra has always been "do what it takes to keep the customer happy" but that seems to make it hard to grow the company as I get caught up doing so much extra for "free". Fine line there i believe.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. 1olddogtwo

    1olddogtwo PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,535

    I would go there in the middle of the night with a leaf blower....2in is 2in if you had a 100inch year, would he pay you extra.....He would laughing out he window.
     
  3. newhere

    newhere PlowSite.com Addict
    from Fenton
    Messages: 1,288

    Trust me. Dont plow them until you hit 2". Commercial and hoa are one thing to plow early but resi is just a pain in the a$$ once you start jumping for them. So you should loose your coat tail on a bad winter and looses your coat tail on a light winter if its up to them right?

    If he wants a 3/4" trigger on his driveway that can be done to make him happy but his price is going up.

    Your better off to drop the pain in the asses and keep growing.
     
  4. BillA

    BillA Member
    from IL
    Messages: 60

    Haha, i have 10 single stage 2stroke toro ccrs...maybe I should take them all over there and get it done tonight :) My thoughts were the same, would he pay more if it snowed over my estimated average??....not a chance!!!!
     
  5. BillA

    BillA Member
    from IL
    Messages: 60


    That was my thought too, I know from my other businesses that some times its easier to thin out the headache customers with unrealistic expectations. Always nice to get a little reassurance tho...thanks!
     
  6. 1olddogtwo

    1olddogtwo PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,535

    After the last two years, it should fun keeping seasonal's. Where in IL are you?
     
  7. BillA

    BillA Member
    from IL
    Messages: 60

    Far West burbs, Naperville area. We actually had every seasonal from last year sign on again this year which was a huge surprise....we will see how that goes next year tho lol! I think people are still scared from the Feb 11' storm that dumped enough snow to cost them almost the full years contract in one sitting payup
     
  8. ponyboy

    ponyboy Senior Member
    Messages: 957

    If he is a good customer do it if not let him drop you
     
  9. BillA

    BillA Member
    from IL
    Messages: 60

    its his first year signing up and we havent had any snow...but he has already called to complain if that says anything about the future :) He paid his first installment so that was good, he owes a second one now so I suppose I will let him decide and he can walk if he would like if he cant deal with 3/4" inches of snow on his drive. Hope it dumps another 24" that same week too if he does!!!

    Personally I didnt want to even clear my drive, I like seeing the snow there but that may be just me, or maybe I'm just scared once I clear it it won't come back again this year :laughing:
     
  10. merrimacmill

    merrimacmill PlowSite.com Addict
    from MA
    Messages: 1,822

    Its not a matter of what might seem right or wrong customer service wise, it is really a legal issue. If you plow prior to your contracted trigger amount, then you just owned that "new trigger" amount legally.

    On a residential property, that 3/4" service will change contracted customer expectation of a 2" trigger. The next time it snows, you will hear "well, last time you plowed when it only snowed 3/4", why aren't you here this time at 1 inch?" You need to create an expectation, clearly define it contractually, and stick to it under ALL circumstances.

    On a commercial account, it becomes a much more slippery slope, involving potential litigation. If you have a contracted 2" trigger, and you show up and plow 3/4", then the next time you let it build to 2" you are breaching the new contract expectations (that you unknowingly created) and can be held much more liable than if you stick to it. In other words, legally what you perform on once, you own for the rest of the contract duration.

    I know many will argue this concept. But this is what has been told to me by many high level industry professionals, and verified by a lawyer in conversation. Thats all enough for me to take it seriously.

    You will ALWAYS have those few seasonal customers who will complain during a low snow year. It comes down to how you can handle those people. Find creative ways to explain the concept to them that can make them feel better. One thing I explain often that seems to work well is, "Think of it like your homeowners insurance. You pay it every year, most likely will never use it, but when you need it, your covered. Similarly, when it snows your covered with no unexpected bills."

    In any seasonal contract, the contractor always takes the risk. There is zero risk to the customer, besides the physiological aspect of them feeling like they did not receive value. In my office building, we hire a elevator company to service our elevator on a service contract. Flat rate, every month. Some months, they never have to do anything and I find myself feeling robbed of value as that hefty check is put in the mail... But then I remember this exact situation.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
  11. ponyboy

    ponyboy Senior Member
    Messages: 957

    No he signed a contract he owes you the money
    If you don't use your car or health insurance do they not make you pay finish the year get paid
    Next year lower his trigger and charge him more and if dies not sign you are lucky
     
  12. ponyboy

    ponyboy Senior Member
    Messages: 957

    I hate residentials I do 15 and charge $1000 for a driveway and walkway takes one truck all of 5 hours if that and I have 8 trucks doing commercial work and almost never a compliant
    Everyone thinks they are special but unless they pay more for a lower trigger they are not
     
  13. Buswell Forest

    Buswell Forest PlowSite.com Addict
    from NH
    Messages: 1,668

    Calmly explain to him that it could snow 5' between now and march. And that if it DOES, he would be getting his money's worth and then some...and that you wouldn't call him and ask for more money if it came like that.
     
  14. BillA

    BillA Member
    from IL
    Messages: 60


    Very valid points, and defiantly taken to heart coming from the TERRA camp, Season 1 of Sno Fighter sits on my office shelf like a picture frame constantly reminding me how much I love pushing snow! Even when customers drive me bonkers :dizzy: Thanks for the input!

    The insurance comparison is one I use a lot with them, I think they really understand it when you put it that way. They know much more about insurance than they do about seasonal snow removal. Maybe the government should make seasonal snow removal mandatory like they do auto insurance and people would not complain so much :laughing:
     
  15. 1olddogtwo

    1olddogtwo PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,535

    Does your seasonal cover ice....Sunday looks fun.
     
  16. BillA

    BillA Member
    from IL
    Messages: 60

    We do cover ice for walkways and sidewalks as part of the seasonal contract and drives as an add-on service but only in conjunction with snow removal, we don't do it as a stand alone service. Id really loose my ass then lol, one thing we can count on is ice especially with the crazy weather we have been having i.e. this coming sunday lol
     
  17. BillA

    BillA Member
    from IL
    Messages: 60

    If it snows 5 feet between now and March I would calmly explain to him that we will no longer be offering seasonal snow removal as we getting rich off of per-removals now lol

    I get your drift though...and I agree 100%
     
  18. Oxmow

    Oxmow Senior Member
    Messages: 127

    Hey BillA did you know either of the women that got arrested for standing up to the electric company?
     
  19. BillA

    BillA Member
    from IL
    Messages: 60

    I didn't know them personally but they are defiantly some soccer moms i wouldn't want to cross lol, they stood their ground up against a hand full of construction workers and about 6 Naperville cops! And went down fighting! They are opposed to the "smart" meters that the city is installing due to the fact that they are know to be unsafe as well as give a valid real-time picture of where you are home and when you arent based on your electricity usage...they feel people could hack the system and use that info against them.

    I am not in city limits really so it doesn't affect me too much
     
  20. Herm Witte

    Herm Witte Senior Member
    Messages: 555

    I've been following this discussion a bit. It's interesting how one client really gets us going. Just remember the client is only one and can be replaced. Just a thought you might consider, why not change your seasonals to a one inch contract next time around. You are in an area of less frequent snow and that might fit the bill for you. Just a thought.