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May lose customer from Preception !! ??

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Eyesell, Mar 3, 2008.

  1. Eyesell

    Eyesell 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,107

    Not sure if this is the case with others here, but it seems a lot of my customers have perceived that I plowed more then I should of this year. When in actuality it has snowed three times the amount from last year.

    Some are saying "don't plow until the snow has completely stopped" ok, now I have twice as much work to do, truck works twice as hard, etc. Years prior this was never, never said but I think that we have had so much snow they think I come to often now. Additionaly, I hear people at the property complaining that the snow isn't plowed when they arrive ( this was never the problem last year ) and I tell them that's cause the deceision maker has instructed me other wise

    Some say don't salt as much, I hear same stuff as above.

    This is a lose lose situation. I need to find a site that allow me to see snow fall totals for this area last year compared to this year, any ideas ??

    My biggest concern is some of these properties may go out for bid next year because they think I plowed to often. :cry:

  2. YardMedic

    YardMedic PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,266

    I realize it's easy for me to say, "put it in your contract that YOU the professional decide when it has to be plowed and what the trigger is." Unfortunately I know what you're saying, though, about people nickel & diming your service. I'd like to be able to say ditch 'em or keep up your better, more-costly service at the risk of losing customers, but I know NEW customers can be hard to come by in today's economy. Maybe a nice letter to everyone explaining the situation would be a good remedy for this year. "We're all in a tough situation. I can appreciate your frustration with the weather this year, but the highest level of service is my goal. Please understand that snowplowing must be done throughout a storm to ensure the highest safety and ultimately the best possible service." Just a few words that came to mind -- you'll have to tweak it for your own situations.
  3. djagusch

    djagusch 2000 Club Member
    from mn
    Messages: 2,107

    Go to the NWS site you will find the snowfall totals for this year compared to last year. Also if you dig long enough on the site you can find 30 yr averages and such.
  4. framer1901

    framer1901 Senior Member
    Messages: 852

    I's a very unfortunate part of an above average year.

    Educate your customers. Show them yearly comparisons, number of events, snowfall totals, etc. Hopefully you are tracking this on a per event basis.

    Another thing is perception. If you bill monthly, alter the billing dates by a few days. Slow first half of the month?, add a few days at the end. Really busy first half of the month, shorten the month by a week. This only fixes perception, but most folks would rather pay a $8000 bill verses a $10000 bill.
  5. Sno4U

    Sno4U Senior Member
    Messages: 480

    Yup, I know what your sayin'.
    Whats really unique is what would happen if the situation where reversed? Ya get a crappy (no snow) year? Do we as contractor go to our clients and say: Ya mind if we lower your trigger depth so we can plow more often, so we can pay OUR bills? My point is: They sure as hell don't whine when YOU have a bad year BUT there's a BIG problem when you have a good year like many of us have had this year.
    Its a shame, but justifying your service is gonna be your best defense. Pull data (as mentioned above) and know what your talking about. There is little you can do beyond what is suggested to keep clients from setting out for new quotes next year.
    Keep your service where your at. I can handle losing an account over numbers much better than losing one b/c I provided less than excellent service!
  6. veggin psd

    veggin psd Senior Member
    Messages: 279

    Maybe the face time in front of the customer is a positive thing. Use the time to bridge the conversation toward an annual contract. Protects both parties. Turn the lose/lose into a win/win!:nod:
  7. hydro_37

    hydro_37 PlowSite Veteran
    from iowa
    Messages: 3,790

    Money is ALOT tighter this year. People are looking to save any way they can. Be professional. I am sure they can see how much bigger the piles of snow are this year compared to last.
  8. 2moresleeps

    2moresleeps Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 131

    Perception is the key. I have had more "This is the worst winter on record since 1999" than I care I remember.

    This winter has been brutal on me and my staff and I have had enough. I have 4 customers who don't want to pay their salt bill and others that don't want to pay for snow plowing.

    I find it funny how we don't control the weather, we are there for the customers every beck and call and allow them to continue to do business and we get a BRUTAL winter like this and they complain. They should be calling us at this point after each storm thanking us for staying in business. I know of 3 companies that have folded.

    This year we witnessed record days of above seasonal temps which then fall to below or normal temps and everything freezes. Ice requires salt, salt requires billing and billing leads to headaches.

    I now understand why companies go under. I understand why people throw in the towel.

    Everyone wants us to LOWER our prices. We do so and then have to take on more customers to pay the bills. When a storm happens, everyone gets upset and complains then too.

    This is a thankless profession. As far as I am concerned, mother nature can kiss my a$$. I could have billed triple this season and it would not have been worth it for me. I am ready to throw in the towel too. Too much BS.

    Next year, people will drop their current contractors (US) thinking the guy next door got better service when everyone is in the same boat. We are ALL too busy, over worked, under payed etc.

    I have listened to people ***** about their current contractor and in the beginning it was ok. Now, I correct them and let them know that 98% of companies are in the same boat. One location may get service slightly faster than the other , some might be slightly cheaper etc. but for christs sake, OPEN YOUR EYES, look out your window! Do you not see 6 feet of snow? Did you see this much in the last 8 years??????
    What is wrong with business owners who think we are out to scam them? My rig cost $65000 plus set up and insurance. You want it cheaper? Get the kid next door with a shovel! Otherwise wake up!

    The sad part is, the new guy next year gets 30cm all year and looks like a GOD when they give the invoice and we are known as the scammers. Then when we get pelted again like this year, the NICE NEW GUY becomes the A-HOLE. WE CANNOT CONTROL THE WEATHER................period!

    Venting over and out!
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2008
  9. Young Pup

    Young Pup PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,522

    Is your contracts set up as per push or by the inch?
  10. TNT Lawncare

    TNT Lawncare Member
    Messages: 96

    This is why my contracts all say I plow every 2" or as needed. All my customers have **** themselves when they got their bills this year but the past 10 years of very little snow have made up for it.
  11. QuadPlower

    QuadPlower PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,056

    I had a first time customer with a seasonal contract talk to me the other day and say how much she felt bad for me this year. I told her I appreciate the comment and said this is why I'm here.

    I would offer a seasonal contract to them with an average for the last three years for next year.

    Use what Yardmedic said in a letter and send it out soon. I would also put something in there about payment and the fact that you still have bills to pay.
  12. BlackIrish

    BlackIrish Senior Member
    Messages: 902

    I feel your pain, 00/01 for us 277 cm it was a bad winter. This year 329cm with a forecasted 10 plowable events over the next 11 days:help: Started selling cm extensions re 250 cap back mid Jan most customers reupped
    whiners were not renewed no payup no service. Take em off the list, build yourself an elite client base that appreciates your service. I personally have had most customers praise us for this year. Betcha if you drop your top 5 B S callers that complaints will drop 80%. Because of contract extensions I personally had to talk to 275 customers,repeatedly :dizzy: For every site that walks away on you 2 more will call for pricing. Weed out the crap, tighten radius of service and build what you want re clients, I for one won't touch gas stations PITA open 24/7
  13. REAPER

    REAPER 2000 Club Member
    from 60050
    Messages: 2,230

    It happens whenever there is above average snowfall. People see the total bill over all and for some companies it really cuts deep in their petty cash stash.

    They will switch, complain about you to the new guy, say you did a "crappy" job and they paid to much.

    Then there will be a few seasons of average or normal snowfall and all is well.

    Then the area gets hit hard again in a couple of more years and those same people will be looking for cheaper once again.

    I have told people that complained to me that if they are paying so much then they should buy their own plow truck and keep it on site and do it themselves.

    Some think I am being a smart azz and some think I give practical advice.

    Not many have bought their own truck to keep on site just for plowing but at least it makes them think some.

    For a small biz I could not see how some of them could afford some of the bills that went out this year.

    I don't feel their pain because when it only snows once in December or 2 or 3 times in January we get no offers of a increased rate like they ask for a discounted rate when is busy.

    They still have to be plowed. They know it, you know it and their customers know it.

    Some don't give 2 hoots about quality and most have no clue what it takes to do the job each and every time it snows.

    It will cycle back around whatever you lose there will be the same from another plow guy looking for the same thing when they call you for a bid.

    One thing I wish is that other plow guys would keep their mouths shut when it comes to what other plow guys do or what others charge. I have been privy to conversations with a customer and another plow guy trying to get his foot in the door. The 1st thing they always do is bash the guy that has been doing it before him and being a braggart about how much less time and money they will spend with him.

    Keep your prices where you need to in order to stay alive. Talk well of others and never say how you would do something until you have actually done it.

    We all shop for the best price when we buy something they are doing the same. It is the method some use that grinds my ax.
  14. ahoron

    ahoron Senior Member
    from here
    Messages: 422

    I thought it was just me. At the start of the season a 2" trigger meant a 2" trigger. now, They are saying wait till it stops snowing. We have one shopping center that the store manager came outside and asked where we have been the lot looks like crap.I told him to call corp. and ask them why they said to wait. Turns out corp. had already spent the whole budget for snow removal for 2008. I guess that's going to cut into his bonus.That's not my fault blame mother nature. but, they don't see that, they just see snow that we aren't plowing. The other said don't start till 2 a.m. then was complaining because the whole lot wasn't done by 7a.m. Now we have to come back the next night to do clean-ups where the cars were parked.
  15. dlcs

    dlcs 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,160

    Take my advice, you can't please eveyone. Do as your contract states. Next year ask them if they want to make changes and adjust accordinally. I only had one account that pissed and moaned "too much salt". Well, they had a slip and fall on their sidewalk, (which I don't take care of their sidewalks) and now they realize that salt is cheap. They can't get enough salt now. LOL
  16. lawntec

    lawntec Senior Member
    Messages: 134

    If you loose customers....so will other companies. Just take theirs, and they will take yours. There will still be the same number of available accounts out there. In a season like yours...there will be no company with no unhappy customers
  17. Sno4U

    Sno4U Senior Member
    Messages: 480

    Ya thats pretty much correct. I feel its b/c in our area we've had light-easy years for several years in a row. I've booked ALOT of work for each storm. We run to the limit! We make as much money as we can for the small amount of snow we receive on the average. When we get "hammered" ya we have some unhappy clients. (oh man, I said that!) Yes, every business that wants to stay in business books as much work as they can "ON AVERAGE". If you don't, that means you have idle resources not makin' $$$$$. Not good.
  18. Eyesell

    Eyesell 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,107

    Guys, thanks for all the suggestions, all good advise. I'm happy ( well not really, you know what I'm sayin' ) to read some of you are having similar problems. The letter idea sounds great and will go in the bill I send out end of March.

    Ahoron, I feel ya on this one, your described problem really sucks, my contract states a 2" trigger, I'm going to go over that with my customers in detail next year.

    Well, thanks again Plow Site Members for the suggestions !
  19. straightlinelan

    straightlinelan Member
    Messages: 53

    Talk to your customer, send out a letter, regardless communicate. I would probably do so in person.
    I have lost many contracts because if your situation. But I have kept more because of the professional, quick service. They pay their bills, sign up for next year with a big thankyou.

    We typical inform customers of the snow amounts in a letter compared to avereages. We also inform them how we are a 24/7 emergency service. I mean if you call a plumber at 2 in the morning, look out for the bill. Remind them of what a slip and fall claim might cost or a workers comp claim in addition to slip and fall. We do quite a few banks and senior living and they dont want snow period. I have our trucks schedule where they are primarily responsible for ONLY 2 accounts because we want to provided superior service in these situation. The bills can get high when you are going there 3 or 4 times thru a storm, but that is why they hired you.

    You can always offer them seasonal contracts. I would not do this unless you can truly know your times and amounts of salt, etc. take you average for 3 years and give them a price. We have done this, but we also have a clause that states if we go over x amounts of inches, then contract pricing takes over. We will either put this number a few inches over normal to account for years when we were under, but it all balances and protects you in a big year like this. However, if you implement this clause they may ***** too.

    My advice ultimately is stay professional. we have enough hacks in this business who go out with their one p/u and charge 50.00 for a lot that should be going for 250.00 a push. let them have it. When a plow truck costs anywhere form 35k to 50k and up. They are not going to last and they will not be there when they are really needed.
  20. Scottscape

    Scottscape Senior Member
    Messages: 662

    take it as a good thing thats all of us snow contractors.. payup

    everyone I talk to here is laughing there ass off.. and well we hit them at the end of the month! they about ****