Sunday, June 27, 2010

Push comes to shove

Now, I know I have broached the subject before. The one where some of the larger companies in the lawn care industry seem to have a playbook on converting former customers back into believers of the faith.

However, after listening to some of my loyal patrons moan about tactics their former providers are still using trying to win them back, I find it hard to fathom there would be any register of success.

Let's explore the various levels shall we?

The soft sell tactic: Is the post card you get in the mail from your former company expressing regret. "Something went wrong between us, but we will do what it takes to win you back."

This sentiment is usually accompanied by a picture of flowers, or kittens, or kittens with flowers.

Regardless the customer knows, if that company hadn't sent out students who didn't do the work in the first place, there'd be no need to send a card now.

The hard sell: This is a very aggressive tactic. Incessant phone calls to the point of belligerence demanding to know who's doing the lawn now, promising to under cut the price and even going as far as slander- "the company you have now isn't using the correct products on your lawn."

If they mean Sarritor, then touche'! They've got me there?

Most people I talk to, find this manner of trying to win a customer back infuriating. Why didn't they get a better price two years ago when they were being gouged by the very same company offering the discount?

The Blindside technique: Funny as it may seem, I lost one customer to this tactic. It involves the company targeting other members of the family and offering them a special price if they purchase lawn care for their parents/daughter/ son/ etc. perhaps as a birthday gift?

But usually this special price also comes with some extra applications you didn't ask for. Applications you are subsequently billed for anyway.

The desperate sell: It may involve some or all of the tactics listed above, but no matter how many times they hear the word, "No!", they remain aggressive and will even sneak an application in on your lawn then bill you for it, threatening legal action if you don't pay.

In all, I have an opinion on all the horror stories I have heard over the years. Yet, I know my advice will fall on def ears.

If you'd only treat your customers with more respect and do a decent job with the work you have been contracted for, there would be no need to lower yourself to such a crass member of the bad business animal.

Hello! Is anyone in the lawn care industry listening?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The 33% rule

Last year I had a customer who was always complaining that his lawn was never healthy, green and there were always weeds everywhere. He told me his lawn looked like crap and it did.

I explained to him he got the same applications on his lawn that everyone else did and suggested he may need to have a soil test, because the problem must be on a deeper level.

My guess at that time was, the lawn was low in magnesium, or organic matter and this was causing it to be unreceptive to treatments.

The customer, being on a the most basic program, did not want to spend the $42 and change for the soil test.

"Look," I said trying to keep him happy, "I'll give you my top program next year at the same price you're paying now to get your lawn under control."

He eagerly agreed.

After the first fertilization, core aeration and bio weed control, the lawn was looking much better, but by the time I showed up for the next application, it was back to looking stressed, brown and weed-filled.

It was then I noticed the huge pile of grass clippings at the side of house and the warning bells began to sound. This guy was letting his grass get insanely long, then scalping it down to nothing and expecting it to look like a golf green.

I had given him my top program for half-price and he was pissing all over my work.

So I made a note on the invoice outlining proper lawn cutting techniques and we'll see what happens, but I'm not terribly optimistic.

So let's establish some ground rules. In fact let us refer to it as the rule of 33%.

The days of lawn companies showing up for two weed-and-feed applications a year, are gone people. It died when the bylaw came in. Now the visits have to be more frequent and the applications more regulated. This is my 33% and my commitment to you.

In between visits I need the home owner to be my eyes and tell me when things are not smiles and giggles with their lawn i.e. visible grub damage, weed issues, and so on. I also need the home owner to do their 33%, which is- cut properly.

Here are your 33% commandments.

Thou shalt not remove more than a third of the blade of grass to minimize stress and ring the dinner bell for weeds.

Thou shalt keep thy mowing blades sharp as to not invite turf disease.

Thou shalt keep thy mowing height on high during the summer months as to keep thy lawn drought tolerant.

Thou shalt deeply water thy grass at least once a week to help create a strong root system.

Thou shalt change thy mowing direction from week to week to promote a healthier and thicker lawn.

Thou shalt leave thy clippings on thy grass to return nitrogen back into thy soil.

Thou shalt never gas up thy mower when on the lawn. Hey, it happens.

The final rule of 33% is the weather. You and I may both do our part, but if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate we can still have problems.

I know you are wondering, "33 + 33 + 33...that still leaves 1% unaccounted for".

I guess you can say that 1% is the previous lawn company showing up and doing an application on your lawn even though you cancelled with them. Let's hope you never have to experience that 1%.

As for my customer and his scalped lawn, I`m not worried. He`s a car salesman. Next season when he wants to renew his sweetheart deal of half-price lawn care, I will tell him, he can have the same program again provided he gives me a new truck at half-price- a truck that I will drive over curbs, rocky terrain and abuse. Then I`ll bring it back and tell him it`s crap.

That seems fair.