Jul 2022 Your Go-to Guide to Qualifying, Identifying, and Managing Difficult Clients (Maintenance Business)
Last month, we discussed the potential solutions for Designers and Landscape Construction Contractors who experience difficult clients, and how to qualify their enquiries. This month, I am talking to our maintenance businesses.
Identify the clients that suit your business
If you were to describe the clients you want more of, what would be their profile? Ask yourself these questions to create a profile of your ‘best clients’ and your ‘2nd best clients’.
What areas do they live in?
What typically is the scope of works you provide for their gardens?
What is the average monthly spend?
How quickly do they pay your invoice?
Do they agree often to your suggestions?
Are they easy to communicate with?
A 2nd best client profile will be similar to the answers for your ‘best client’ profile, but not quite the same. If you run a commercial maintenance business, modify these questions accordingly.
So, who are the clients that don’t suit you?
Anyone that doesn’t fit the profiles above.
Now, qualify your enquiries
The next step involves creating a list of questions to ask a residential client over the phone or via email to qualify whether a potential client suits your business. You can set up a qualifying document and email it to the prospect asking them to answer your questions. You can also have qualifying questions on the contact page on your website. The qualifying process can be delegated to someone in your office or outsourced, once you have the document set up correctly.
The same applies to a commercial business based on your experience, the scope of works, projects that suit your business, the variations that you receive, what companies/councils are prepared to pay per hour and how quickly they pay invoices.
Your time is important, so once you qualify the prospect thoroughly if you know a potential project doesn’t suit you, be polite and say something like; “now that I have an understanding of what you require, unfortunately, this isn’t the type of maintenance project we are best suited to, so I suggest you seek another horticulturist to quote you. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.”
How to deal with clients that cause problems
The key to minimising problems with clients is being clear in your communication, (keeping them informed regularly of progress reports) after your crew attends to their property.
If clients start reducing potential hours assigned to their property, you have to decide if you can maintain their property to your high standards within the hours they are prepared to pay. If you can’t service their property properly or if you have a minimum amount per visit (and I think it should be something like 2hrs x 2 men or 4hrs per team), you should let the client know or be prepared to let them go, if they don’t accept.
When we start out in business, I know we are always told that the customer is always right, but I disagree with this advice. I think we should have standards in our business and provide the highest standards we possibly can, but we should also have some rules that we stick by when choosing clients. And one should be our minimum charge, another should be what we provide for the minimum charge while meeting our high standard. If clients start dissecting a planned service or want to receive more maintenance for less money, then I suggest you politely let them know that what they are demanding won’t be aligned with the standard you provide and what your company stands for.
Also, if a client is very slow paying your invoices, reminders to pay within 7 days are necessary. The aim is to build a client base with only ‘A and B’ Category clients or Best and 2nd Best clients.
Identifying the right clients, starts with clearly knowing on paper, who that client is. Then take time to qualify every client to ensure you are choosing the right ones. Set your rules and be sure about what you will and won’t accept and communicate your rules and standards with clients. If you charge higher fees because your knowledge and standard is high, keep clients informed regularly and always remain respectful and polite, and I am sure your best and 2nd best clients will continue to appreciate your service.