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"Will Call" customers

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by Mick, Jan 12, 2003.

  1. Mick

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

    This has come up in a couple of threads and has been an issue for me this year. I'm wondering how eveyone else handles this.

    Had couple call me the other night to price plowing for them. They hadn't been plowed this year and were having trouble getting into and out of thier driveway after the 14" snowfall earlier this month. I met with them and went over my pricing structure. Did the usual one-time plow to show what kind of service they could expect. The 3" to 6" price looked good, but she said they couldn't afford a 14" snowfall (amounts to 2x the price for a 3-6, then + $2). She said they'd call me when they needed me and wanted me to be able to respond in time for them to get out for work. Now, to me, this means that they'll call after at least a 10" snowfall on top of whatever else has fallen to that time and been packed down. I declined those conditions. Told her that the main problem is that when she called I would likely be out plowing my route. I'd get to her when I got the message and was able to fit it into the places I was plowing. Told her there was a chance I wouldn't be able to respond at all. Then, if I did, the charge would be AT LEAST $xxx, which amounted to 2 1/2 times the charge for a usual 3-6".

    My thinking is that the equipment will take an unusual amount of wear pushing something like this. Also, that I am unwilling to compromise plowing my other customers to respond to something like this. All my other customers are plowed at 3". This is to my advantage as far as wear and tear and makes up for the higher wear and tear of the deeper snows. Plus, I can't put them on my route. Although I plow a house close to them, I wouldn't know if they want plowed until they called. By that time, I may be miles away.

    I did send a standard proposal, which she requested. But, I specified a 3" trigger etc. I haven't heard back so she must have gotten someone else.

    What do you think? Would you have handled it differently?
  2. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    Don't worry about it.


    OBRYANMAINT PlowSite.com Veteran
    from ohio
    Messages: 534

    you did fine dont worry over one residential drive..I am sure your charges are in line

    When we do them we charge double what it would be regularly and it is when we have time usually in the after noon.we get paid then and it rarely snows more than 6 to 8 inches a storm where i am at or it would be more for sure

    if i were to push 12 or so inches of snow i would not at all have aproblem with charging 75 to 100 dollars for a two car drive 30 to 40 feet long

    of course with that much snow we probably would not do it for we would have our regular customers to service
  4. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075


    I've gotten to the point where if the customer doesn't want me to operate in the manner I see fit, I don't accept them as a customer. I don't take customers on an on call basis, I can't be bothered answering phone calls during snow. I also have a maximum trigger of 3" before I plow, if they don't agree to this, then I recommend they call someone else. If you don't maintain the drive all season, you put far too much strain on your equipment to justify the "ocassional" plowing.

    I recently had one of my lawn accounts that is outside my plowing area call last week to plow. I went up to look (it was 2 days after the storm) and they had been shoveling the driveway, but the parking area hadn't been touched. I made no promises, but it pushed back fairly well. When I gave the price, I could see the look of astonishment, but I got the job. I don't think I'll be called back, but we can't work for nothing!
  5. Strongmd

    Strongmd Member
    Messages: 43

    Here's what I do.

    We charge by the visit. We plow if we've received at least 2". We only accept customers that accept our terms. They're either on the route, or not. However, we do accept on-call plowing. All calls are forwarded to my cell phone. I tell people to call if they need us in a big storm. I tell them that if they call, they WILL get plowed. BUT, they will not be a priority, we are going to finish all of our regular customers first, and it will cost them 10% more than our regular customers.

    For example, we visited most of our customers three times on the last storm, so a $35 plow would be $105 for that storm. So if someone called in for a plow, it will be at least $110. It seems extreme, but it wouldn't be fair if they could call to be plowed once on a large storm and pay less for that same storm than the clients that accept your terms and are your bread and butter all winter.
  6. Mick

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

    Matt, this is what I'm trying to get at. Your regular customers would have been plowed for smaller storms. Now, these people are calling and getting all of thier snow to date plowed for only $5 (10% would be an extra $10 or $110) more than your regular customers for that storm. Hardly seems fair to the solid, regular customers, IMO.

    Interesting viewpoints. Keep em coming.
  7. Strongmd

    Strongmd Member
    Messages: 43

    If they call you for a one-time visit, odds are you just had a storm. I would just charge them slightly more than you charge everyone else, unless you know there's considerable accumulation. Keep in mind too, that you should do this after everyone else is done, that way any $$ is extra $$. Maybe have a $75 min. for 1 time plows, and have that be for 15 minutes, and then go $75 for each 15 minute increment you break into after that. OR, just turn them away all together as there are plenty of good acct's to grab. I"ve thought about this myself for a couple of reasons,

    1. aggravation & abuse to equipment
    2. they only call during the worst of storms, when I'm usually totally f'ed anyway and don't need to be taking phone calls from one-time customers.

    Just my thoughts
  8. Arc Burn

    Arc Burn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,138

    Our last 2 big storms(3' and 2') i had 2 dozen messages from people for new plowing,this was almost 2 months into the season,my route was put together in october,some of these people were even approached by me this fall but were not interested,these calls were not returned,unprofessional maybe,but just plain ignorant on there part,they know what these winters bring and there 4x4 SUV's go right through 6" and pack it down real good!but when we get a big storm your expected to drop what your doing to come bail them out,i dont think so,in short,you have already done WAY more than i would have.
  9. chris k

    chris k Senior Member
    Messages: 204

    What you did sounds fair. We don't take on call customers or one time customers. The problem with them is the fact that they call everyone in the paper, whoever gets there first does the job. Too many times, when we first started, you would drive all the way to the driveway and the thing was already done.
    If they are to cheap to spend the money on the smaller storms then let them find someone else to do their driveway.
  10. John DiMartino

    John DiMartino PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,154

    Mick,I wouldnt bother with them,i too do not take call customers.i knwo my route,and I do not change it or wait for the phone to ring to respond.Its on my terms or find another contractor. The saying lack of proper planning on your part doesnt constitute and emergency on my part comes to mind.These people must think we sit by the phone with te truck running all cleaned off waiting for their call for $35 bucks,LOL.
  11. chtucker

    chtucker Senior Member
    Messages: 618

    I take them last for a premium. DOUBLE what I would normally charge.
  12. Chief Plow

    Chief Plow Senior Member
    Messages: 201

    We don't take calls. Just can't fit them into the schedule. Not to mention, I will not jeopordise service to our current customers.
    my 2 cents
  13. fordman

    fordman Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    I wouldn't worry about it. I had a few clients who wanted me to plow them on an on call basis as well. I would either get no calls or they would always call at the same time. I ended up dropping them, to much of a PITA and not worth it in the end.
  14. flakesmeangreen

    flakesmeangreen Senior Member
    Messages: 217

    I gladly accept call-ins & one-timers after my route's done and after some zzz's. The Christmas storm was insane with 25-30 calls. Didn't get all of them because "That's too much. Joe Schmoe used to do it it for $20, even though we have 14" of snow." That's nice, where's he now since you're calling me?

    Stoped answering the calls after a while and just checked all my messages every 3-4 hours or whenever I had the time. They get charged whatever the regular customers get charged + about 25%. I also get a lot of weekenders (vacation area/2nd homes) that call days after a storm that get the same pricing structure.

    If we received 3 - 4" storms over the last 2 weeks, nothing melted & it's a $30 driveway they would be charged $115 ($30 each time x 3 + 25% rounded up. No guarantee how well it'll scape, they'll need a contract for that. They're certainly not going to get a cheaper rate for not maintaining their property properly and it wouldn't be fair to the regular customers to charge them any less.

  15. wyldman

    wyldman Member
    Messages: 3,265

    We take call-ins,and do them after everyone else at a MUCH higher rate.The office puts them in the queue,and the drivers call in to get them after their normal routes.We just split them up between the guys on their way home,and I split the net with the driver.They don't mind doing them if they are makin good $$$,and usually do a very nice job.We've picked up quite a few residentials and commercials on seasonal contracts,due to handling the situation in a timely and professional manner.Usually people calling around will experience quite a few impolite people and recieve a "lecture" on how they should have called "back in november" or "thats why you should have a contract".You will get a few bad ones,but they can be weeded out fairly quickly,a lot of times on the phone.Why turn down work when people are offering it to you ?
  16. Arc Burn

    Arc Burn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,138

    I'm turning down work mid winter because there's 4'+ of snow in these driveways,all of which has settled and begun to pack,these aren't K-mart parking lots,they are gravel drives on hills,why beat my truck cause they were trying to save a $,and thats all they were trying to do,if it works for you fine,it's your equipment,BTW,none of these people want a contract,they just want to call you when they come twice a year.
  17. wyldman

    wyldman Member
    Messages: 3,265

    Yeah,it's tough when there is that much snow,and it's been driven on for a while.I'll go out,asess the situation and tell them what it needs.I would use a bobcat to peel it up,and charge accordingly.Once you explain it to them,and they realize that one large removal can be just as much as a seasonal contract,they usually sign on right then and there.Not everyone will be like this,but I find it's worth a try.You can also do these kind of jobs on those "off" days,when it's not snowing.
  18. Grshppr

    Grshppr Senior Member
    Messages: 268

    We take on "call in's" as well. As long as they are not pushy on the phone to get the job done, and realise that they are at the bottom of the list. I charge more for these , and get them plowed usually the next day ( after a couple of hours of precious sleep). If they are demanding on the phone, and expect that they can call me in the middle of January and get the drive plowed right away during a big storm....i tell them to call elsewhere. I've had a few people that have been like that. A gas station that I quoted on in November finally called me yesterday during a 8" snowfall, and wanted me to get the lot done that day. I said that I could not as I was busy, but could do it the next day. Not good enough. Fortunately for them I guess someone was sitting by the phone waiting for a call, because there was a guy there doing it a couple hours later. Oh well, generally people that expect instant service are the slowest ones to pay....I think I am rambling on here...I'm gonna go get some sleep now. Been awake so long I think I have forgotten how to sleep.:D
  19. ebaron

    ebaron Senior Member
    Messages: 110

    One timers to seasonals

    I work similar to Wyldman. I'll take the call if they are in my route. Price the first one accordingly and then quote the season. I have gained several good customers like this, they see your work, professionalism and politeness. The smart ones see the value of the seasonal contract. The others either don't or figure they know how to get the most out of you. THESE folks, as most know, are rarely worth a second trip. They'll be out there thinking they can direct your truck around their driveway like a broom.

    Here's is the other problem with those customers, they can be BAD for business, if they feel they did not get 'their' deal, they'll whine to their neighbors. Better off politely turning down their business.

    I am amazed at how many plowers (maybe short timers and at least in my area) are rude to their customers. You can at times pick up good customers from a call in.

    Mick, you did the right thing.

    Customers are first, call ins are last, another reason for them to convert!

    One last comment! I think some folks see the blade is 29"high, so what is the difference if there is 2 feet in the driveway? Like I said before, they never chip in for a new tranny.
  20. Doctordo

    Doctordo Member
    Messages: 50

    Mick ,

    It sounds like you and I are on the same page. I believe everyone needs to line up a plow person every oct/nov or else they may be out of luck . I will predict next year in our state that we will get alot of new customers because of the heavy snow fall.