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Residential Plowing Policies

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by divihydroseed, Jan 24, 2005.

  1. divihydroseed

    divihydroseed Junior Member
    Messages: 12

    I plow in Connecticut and I need some help setting policy for residential snowplowing customers. We're slowly but surely building a commercial plowing base, but are primarily residential right now. I have a lot of really good customers, but some of my new clients have been a nightmare. After this past storm, I feel I need to put my foot down and put a policy in writing that my customers can look to for information about our services.

    Do you charge per push or per storm? Do you set a maximum number of passes for 'per storm' pricing (e.g. 1 to open the drive and 1 cleanup)?

    What do you do if the town pushes snow onto the base of the driveway after you make your final pass?

    What do you do if the clients leave their car's in the way? Are they responsible for cleaning around their car or do you come back? Do you knock on doors for them to move their car - do you charge for the time the truck is sitting there? Do you call ahead and tell the client to move their car?

    Do you deviate from your normal route for homeowners who need to be plowed out early? Do you set a route and stick to it no matter what? Do you charge extra for this?
  2. Ken1zk

    Ken1zk Senior Member
    Messages: 192

    In my market, very heavy competition in Buffalo NY, most residential is at a seasonal price. After a storm I usually spend some time on "clean up" by opening up driveways and getting into areas previously block by cars or drifted in.
    With the commercial accounts, they are on a per push basis and I charge them according to what I have to do after the storm. For example if I plow a parking lot for $100.00 per push, and after the storm I have to return to get to areas where cars were parked, or open up the driveways I charge on a percentage, that is if I spend 1/2 the time I would spend plowing the whole thing I bill for $50.00. My per push pricing is on a scale of snowfall.
    Trigger to 3" = $ 3"-9" = $$ 9"-12" = $$$ 12+" = $$$$ This helps to account for additional trips needed, time taken, wear and tare on my equipment.
    I run my route to be profitable. In a heavy or expected heavy storm I start plowing when we approach the trigger. I plow with the storm as opposed to waiting for it to end so people are being plowed about every 2 to 3 inches in most events.
    As for the customer agreement, I spell out allot of what the service will entail and try to be very specific about why some things happen. For example I state that "During large storms response time may be delayed due to slow moving traffic during bad weather." "Plowing may not clean snow away to bare pavement." "Surfaces will remain slippery even after snow plowing or salt application." Etc, etc. Basically I tried to address the most common complaints and concerns I receive calls from customers about right in the agreement. After telling a customer a few times on the phone when they call to complain, "like it states in our agreement Mr. Customer ..." they get the idea and read the damn thing. Sometimes it can get frustrating getting 10 calls saying "Where are you" "Why havent you plowed my driveway yet?" in the middle of a storm when you can barely get through traffic to get to the account in the first place, and you only get these calls because the customer has lost sight of what your trying to drive through. So in my agreement it states "During severe storms we strive to deliver a timely service, and occasionally are impeded by town road conditions and traffic. Please be assured we are responding in the best and safest manner possible." I am working on a customer information sheet I can attach to the agreement to help avoid the silly calls over simple stuff. Once I get it done I'll post it so maybe others can utilize some of it.
    The best way to achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction is to communicate to the customer what to expect and why. To me the agreement is more than a tool to help limit my liability should a problem or injury arise and somebody tries to sue, I try to use it to convey information to make the relationship with the customer one of understanding.
    I hope this helps you, good luck
  3. Jone43

    Jone43 Member
    Messages: 30

    The way you worded your contract is real nice. The whole thing about being safe and providing prompt service is very professional. Good Job.
  4. Ken1zk

    Ken1zk Senior Member
    Messages: 192

    Thanks :salute:
  5. divihydroseed

    divihydroseed Junior Member
    Messages: 12

    residential plowing

    It's funny, but my wife has encouraged me to write a "Snowplowing Procedure" to distribute to all of my customers - similiar to what Ken wrote (thank you!). She went with me the last couple storms and can't believe how people treat me - and worse, the calls people make about my people (myself & her) that plowed their driveway.

    We have a bunch of clients that we 'dumped' after this storm. I have about 30 residential clients, most of which are really nice and appreciate the work I do - and I really appreciate them. The problem is, I have about 5 clients that consume most of my time. I got rid of these people tonight with nice letters.

    I'm hoping that by getting rid of these people, I can focus on the good customers. I feel like some of the people always have issues. I have 25 clients that I never hear from except that write notes on the invoices saying I did a great job. The problem is, the other 5 that call every storm to ask questions, ask where I am, and raise complaints about the service. These are the people that call the office before storm, during the storm, and again after the next day - with nothing positive to say in any of the calls.

    Example, Judy G - a new client. She calls every storm - the first storm to say her neighbor plowed her driveway and I didn't need to rush to get there (ok with me), the second storm to ask why the storm ended I hadn't cleared where her car was parked (the storm ended after working hours and she was home - and of course, her big 4x4 parked in the spot I need to plow the 2" of snow that prohibits her from getting out), and this last storm her son flew into a rampage because 'my snowblower cratched his truck' - even though I was never within 10 feet of it. He ran out when I was there - but never bothered to confront me and deal with it then. He was going to wash his truck today and confirm that I scratched it. He never called today - just as I expected because I didn't scratch his truck. How do you guys deal with that kind of abuse? How do you deal with people looking down on you (us) like that? It's driving me crazy.

    I have a business degree and as my wife says, 'have no customer service skills'. After calls to the office in each of the first 3 storms, I just can't justify spending a half hour every storm returning calls to the same people for $30 or $40. a plow. I understand problems arise every now and then, and I deal with them for 99% of my clients.

    Example, I had one client stop me and ask me if I could put down salt for her - I don't charge her a lot and she never pays on time, but I appreciate her calling me to tell me she can't pay on time. Even though the salt application comes out of my pocket, I'll put down salt for her at no extra charge.

    Another one called every 15 minutes - they have a 1/4 mile driveway that goes straight uphill. Because they have 'big important jobs', the husband got his car stuck going up the driveway (he couldn't work from home on a Saturday as he normally does during the week). The car was stuck no more than 50' up the driveway - there was no way I could plow up to it, around it, etc. They expected me to drop my other clients, and come pull their cars out with my plow truck. For the most part, I can rarely get my plow truck up the driveway without salting every trip.

    It seems like the same few people call every storm with new problems. Do you guys just drop those people and stick with the 95% that are good? Or do you deal with the 'bad clients' and set them straight?
  6. xlr8

    xlr8 Senior Member
    Messages: 107

    Drop em and drop em fast. You will get more descent clients in the future by taking good care of good clients
  7. divihydroseed

    divihydroseed Junior Member
    Messages: 12

    Thanks - I appreciate the support. One part of me feels bad for dropping them mid season, the other part knows there are always going to be someone's headache until they finally buy a snowblower.
  8. Ken1zk

    Ken1zk Senior Member
    Messages: 192

    Couldn't have said it any better myself. I too am working a snow plowing information sheet for my customers, giving them that information really helps stop most of the nasty calls because they have a better understanding about the business and why you are not in their driveway "RIGHT NOW"! And for the ones who still call, well at least their a little nicer.
  9. Jason Pallas

    Jason Pallas Senior Member
    Messages: 662

    Sometimes it's the best feeling in the world to give a customer the old "I'm sorry but we can't give you the type of service you require at an affordable price....." letter - thus terminating your business relationship. It's really such a great opportunity to basically tell those PITA customers to F--k OFF in a very nice way. And believe me, they know it's the old F--k off letter too - and the nicer you make it, that harder they feel like they really got told to F off. Good luck
  10. 04superduty

    04superduty PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,354

    dont forget to send a thank you to the good customers.
  11. alternative

    alternative PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,164

    RESIDENTIAL SUCKS>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> :dizzy:
  12. bushwoods1

    bushwoods1 Member
    Messages: 31

    You can also send them a letter such as;

    "Dear Mr. & Mrs Customer,

    We are sorry to hear that you are unhappy with our service during the recent storm. As we are committed to providing quality service to each and every one of our clients, and would hate to lose your business let me remind you of our service agreement. As stated in our agreement, we make every effort to arrive in a timely manner to complete your plowing. Weather conditions, road conditions, and the attention we give to each property dictates our arrival time.

    However if you would like us to change our schedule to accommodate your needs, I would be more than happy to come out and meet with you to reevaluate your needs, and give you a new quote for snow removal. "

    Or words to that effect. Of course this assumes you have a written agreement with them. Once they see there may be an increase, they will usually hold there tongue, or if they do not want to pay extra, will drop you, which is what you wanted to have happen in the first place. However if they agree to the increase, better for you. Win Win situation. My residential clients know up front that my commercial properties com first, then come the residential. Good luck hope it works to your advantage. Bill