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Weeding out bad customers

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by snow4me, Apr 6, 2013.

  1. snow4me

    snow4me Senior Member
    Messages: 127

    I just got rid of two bad customers recently. The first guy guy e-mailed back in January telling me he is going to be out town for the first week of February so I should skip his 300ftl 4 car driveway while he is in Florida. I missed his e-mail and it snowed twice in a 5 day period so we plowed twice.

    I had another customer #2 do the same thing during the same week and because that guy WAS a good customer and has referred me one new customer this year I skipped his as requested.

    The problem we had with customer #2 we skipped is there was a partial thaw after the first storm then it got cold and froze. When the second storm came there was a layer of 3-4" of frozen snow with another 5-6" on top of that. My driver told me he got stuck twice because it is also a hilly driveway and it took him over 1 hour to plow because the blade kept tripping.

    I told customer #2 guy when he got back I was charging him for 1.5 plows due to the fact it took us 3x as long to plow his driveway. When I sent him the bill he got mad as hell and told me my services were no longer needed.

    Back to customer #1 he sent me payment for only 3 plows instead of the 4 we did. When I e-mailed him about it he ignored me. I added it to this months bill and here is the e-mail I got back from him:

    I am sorry, I meant to call you earlier to explain the shortage.

    Sometime in late January I sent an email informing you that I was going to be on vacation from 2/04/13 to 2/17/13 and to not plow during these dates unless contacted and directed otherwise.

    I reiterated this info to you on 2/02/13 when you were here, therefor I didn't remit for the 2/05/13 plowing.

    I called you from Florida to instruct you to plow on 2/09/13.


    My response to him was:

    In our contract it states that we plow after every 2" or greater snow event. I have been lenient in the past and made exceptions and it has cost me in damaged equipment and increased labor costs.

    I am no longer allowing customers to skip plowing just because they are out of town. With the freeze & thaw cycles if you don't remove the snow right after a storm it freezes to the concrete and puts and incredible amount of stress on my equipment besides taking us twice as long to plow.

    I had this issue with another customer this past winter and ironically it was the same time period you asked us to skip on. His I skipped but I forgot to tell my driver to skip yours.

    We skipped his and the snow from the first storm froze under a new layer of snow. The following storm my driver got stuck twice on his property and the plow blade kept tripping so it took 1.25 hours to do the job that normally takes 20 minutes.

    I pay my driver $25 per hour and charge this customer $40 per plow. It took him 1.25 hours to plow his driveway not to mention the wear and tear it put on my truck and plow.

    Does this seem fair?...


    Here is his response to me:

    No, and I won't be needing your services next year.


    Technically he fired me but I am extremely happy to lose him and customer #2. It felt invigorating to send him this final e-mail this morning.


    I am glad we got this issue resolved. That is why I explained this to you.

    You are too cheap to understand the expenses involved in running a business and all you care about is yourself.

    I will gladly lose you and every customer like you. There are plenty of good customers to replace the bad ones.

  2. bswalks

    bswalks Member
    Messages: 59

    I have customers that go to Florida & they are my favorite places to plow. They get plowed only one time per storm.
    Most want it plowed every storm. The couple that only want it plowed if it's a substantial snowfall, I tell them I can't do it. So if we get 2-3 storms of 3-4 inches, maybe some rain or freezing rain on top of that.
    I'm not interested in breaking a truck or getting stuck because someone's too cheap.
    It's my way or they can get someone else.
  3. basher

    basher PlowSite Fanatic
    from 19707
    Messages: 8,993

    I advise customers that we plow every contract every storm 11/15 -4/15 no exceptons, if they go away and don't want their drive plowed don't sign the contract.

    The first customer IMO he was right. If you allow customers to skip plowings and he Emailed you and you failed to read it, than it's on you. The snippy note is not a good business practice. Before when asked his story was "He did a good job but wanted to plow when I was away and I'm not paying to have the drive plowed when I not here" now his story will be "He had a bad additude, overcharged, doesn't listen to instructions, and I don't want him on my property"

    The second customer again IMO should have been billed the standard fee. YOU allowed him to skip the plowing so you are the responsible party. After all you are suppose to be the professional and by allowing them to skip the plowing you created the situation.

    So instead of still having two customers, now you didn't get paid for the work and lost the income from two customers (and perhaps a third if #2 bad mouths you to the referal) all over a stituation you allowed to happen.

    I'm willing to bet if you'd written off the relatively small amount then reworded your contract next fall to disallow skipping storms you'd have both clients again next year.

  4. Camden

    Camden PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,604

    You're probably right. But maybe the OP is like me and won't tolerate customers who don't have respect for the job you do. He clearly stated his position...skipping service is harder on equipment and it takes more time. His customer balked at that explanation. In my opinion he did the right thing, there are plenty of customers out there who appreciate what we go through.
  5. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Dr Sir,yes I did see your email ,but I decided to plow your driveway to keep it open so it looked like someone was home and not on vacation.
  6. Mr.Markus

    Mr.Markus PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,782

    This is part of my selling schpeel. The private drives I do are weekend/country properties, (not cottages, houses that I will never be able to afford.) There are others that need access, cleaning ladies, oil and gas, god forbid fire department. The general security thing usually sways them too.
    As for name calling, and one upmanship. Go ahead and write the email if it makes you feel better but don't send it. In 17 years I have only dropped 1 customer, who didn't see eye to eye with what they were paying for. I wrote a polite letter giving them as long as they needed or till the next renewal to find a new contractor. (It was a 4 season account)
    They wrote a nasty letter back firing me IMMEDIATELY ,calling me every name in the book, insulting me and said they would report me to the BBB. I sent them a "Thank you for business" card with the caption "I wish you the best with your new contractor... Markus"
    You know that made them go balistic...
  7. snocrete

    snocrete Banned
    Messages: 2,862

    Again, I agree Basher. The OP missed the email...that's the OP's fault. The OP allowed skipped plowings before, now mid contract he changes up the game on the customer. I'd be pissed too.

    Learn from your mistakes this season...it will make your life easier next season.
  8. Buswell Forest

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

    E-mail is no way to conduct business. The phone is what you need to use if you want to be sure.
    And skipping storms? Nope. Nobody can predict the weather, especially the people who get paid to forecast...so I plow every storm over 2". It's not good planning to let three 3" storms go unplowed and have it turn to concrete right before a 16" snow. You have to be clear with customers is all.
  9. snocrete

    snocrete Banned
    Messages: 2,862

    So sending estimates, bills, ins info, etc, & corresponding with a customer through email is wrong?
  10. BigBoyPlowin

    BigBoyPlowin Senior Member
    Messages: 301

    Seasonal unlimited contracts.... problem solved.
  11. BC Handyman

    BC Handyman PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,943

    sounds like a GV echo;)
  12. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    Couldn't be more wrong. Many now prefer email....and email is good as written when it comes to documentation. I guess in the "I don't work with contacts only handshakes" world no email may be fine.....
  13. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Thumbs Uppayup
  14. MSS Mow

    MSS Mow Senior Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 983

    I couldn't disagree more. Email is a great way to communicate with a customer. It not only provides written documentation for what has been communicated, it allows both parties to respond in your own time frame without interrupting what the other is doing. It provides a record to go back to, even years later, for information.

    Now if you are going to be nasty and tell off a customer, then yes, verbal is the only way to do it. You don't want a record of that. :nod:

    I do agree on not skipping storms. I also do not skip storms for people who are out of town.
  15. cja1987

    cja1987 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,407

    This X 1 million.

    You missed an email and your contract seemingly does not address this situation. Though it does suck, in plowing more than anything else I can think of, sometimes you just have to write something off as a learning experience and eat it. I don't know how long you have been at this but after a while, you have made many of the common mistakes and made changes due to them. Plowing is a constant learning endeavor, if you are making a profit you are doing well. Some things just need to be let go.

    Though I sympathize with the situation and have been in it myself (and then some), snarky emails that serve to insult are never the way to go. You can find new customers all the time, usually multiple if you put yourself out there a bit and even do a tiny bit of advertising. 1 or 2 are easily replaceable. What is not good is when you put yourself in what I'd think of as the "negative numbers". You are going negative when somebody starts bad mouthing you to everybody who will listen and then everyone tells their friends, etc. Bad news travels fast. News of "conflict" travels fast. You don't know if customer #1 is just a stuck up loner who does not talk to many people or one of the best known people in town. You dont know who he talks to and how often.

    Like somebody else mentioned, as dumb as it sounds, sometimes its good to vent in a hypothetical letter/email to the customer. I've done this before. Write it, save it, don't send it. Sit on it for a few days and then come back to it. It usually seems stupid and trivial to bother with these people after you go about your daily life for a few days and the world keeps turning. I've never gone ahead and sent any of this correspondence I wrote.

    If somebody can't understand your position that you laid out quite logically, they are already an extremely selfish person who thinks "any idiot" can do what you do. They are out for their own selfish interests, in their own little world and have no consideration for anybody else. An email that is more strongly worded/personal won't help them to understand and will only serve to piss them off at best and make them badmouth you at worst. They are either very ignorant at best or they know exactly what you go through and they don't care. They may even know they are in the wrong but dont care about that either. I tend to think most are actually the latter, they know damn well whats involved and they know they are getting off relatively cheap vs hours in the cold with a shovel. They just dont care and are looking to take advantage of somebody whenever they can.

    Most everytime Ive dropped a customer I have just stopped showing up. Obviously, you may need to ride out a season if your contract is written that way but just dont show up next season.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2013
  16. basher

    basher PlowSite Fanatic
    from 19707
    Messages: 8,993

    Harry Truman said he often wrote letter to those he had issue with only to read them the next morning, rip them up and throw them away. Good advice from one of our greatest presidents.
  17. ducaticorse

    ducaticorse PlowSite.com Addict
    from we
    Messages: 1,426


    And with emails to confirm what was agreed upon, with time and date stamps, there is no gray area. Try and accomplish that with a phone call or handshake.
  18. jb1390

    jb1390 Senior Member
    Messages: 710

    This 100%.
  19. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

  20. CGM Inc.

    CGM Inc. PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,598

    Couldn't agree more! :drinkup:

    I don't even want salt on call clients never the less plow on call.
    Screws up everything and anything we do. I let go 3 clients this season already.