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Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners

 
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Old 01-05-2014, 11:10 PM   #1
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Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


Lately scheduling has been causing lots of tension and problems at our company. Tension and problems between my partner and I regarding how to handle the scheduling issues, employees with nothing to do or a surprise day of no work, and of course unhappy customers. I'm not referring to a deadline here. Homeowners want us in at certain times, out at certain times and want us to provide them with a list of specific days we will be there for work and get their approval for those days (sometimes these vary from husband to wife). As you know its there can be many factors to scheduling a project and arriving on specific days. Keep in mind we are doing exterior/patio/screen enclosure work so it is not like we are going inside the home. Here are some examples of our recent problems.

-Customer wants job to be done by Christmas. We agree to accommodate and schedule for extra resources. We show up to do the work before Christmas and customer has suddenly changed their mind... they now want it to wait until after xmas.

-Husband tells us to remove lanai on a specific day. We show up and wife tell us NO it must wait until next week as wife wants to use lanai this weekend. Husband will not speak to us, likely embarassed by his wifes actions after he gave us approval.

-We estimated 1 day to do site prep for a concrete slab. We ran into underground roots and need another day for site prep. All of our crews are full for a week. Customer is upset we are leaving project unattended for a week. In reality it has no effect on the completion deadline.

-Project is not completed and requires an additional day of work. We go back out the next to complete it, customer will not allow us to work because he has company over.

-Homeowner wants to be home when project is completed. Homeowner is only home 3 days a week or homeowner is only home 1 week per month

-With the recent holidays, most people wanted to wait until after the holiday to start work. The weeks before the holidays we had idle labor. Nothing in our contract prohibited us from starting before the holiday.

None of these scheduling constraints or issues are brought up to us before the contract is signed. My business partner leans more to the side of making the customer happy and taking the losses these things cause. I lean towards our contract which basically says we can perform services whenever or bill for additional costs incurred, however that generally makes the customer unhappy.

How do you handle these types of situations?
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Old 01-05-2014, 11:35 PM   #2
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


Most of the situations you list can be dealt with by means of a good contract and communication with the client before the job starts. Don't assume they are aware that you need to keep a steady workflow going; lay it out for them. Most folks are pretty accommodating when they understand that.

Holidays in the middle of the schedule? Work it out with the client before you start the job. Then hold them to it.

If you flat-out screwed up and can't get things done on the schedule you cooperatively planned with the client, it's time to eat humble pie (and maybe a few dollars) and work it out with him.

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Old 01-05-2014, 11:36 PM   #3
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


I don't know what the questions is.

Is the wife hot looking?
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Old 01-06-2014, 12:48 AM   #4
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


If you want to deal with missed appointments, then raise your prices by $100 (or $10 or $1000, or whatever your number is) and offer a $100 (or $10 or $1000) Customer Appreciation Discount if the customer keeps the original schedule, or does any rescheduling (a maximum of 1 time) more than 72 hours ahead of time. Or make it a percentage rather than a dollar amount. Or if this bad behavior is really killing you, don't raise your prices, just offer the discount and see if you're still ahead.

Don't make it a penalty for missing an appointment - customers will hate you for that and won't pay you. It's a discount, and it won't even appear on the invoice unless you positively put it there - they need to earn it. If they question it, tell them that keeping appointments helps you save money on their job, and you're willing to share it with them. That's the truth, isn't it?

If you miss an appointment, you decide what you should do.

Start there and see where it goes. If nothing else, you will gain useful information about your pricing. If the $100 doesn't change your customers' behavior at all, then you need to raise your prices by $400 (or whatever) and make the discount $200. Etc.

This is like the anti-looky-loo estimate charge used by some trades. It won't cover the cost if someone re-schedules, but it will eliminate 90% of the problem.

You have to apply it with discipline and ignore the excuses.

It's a perfectly fair and non-confrontational solution. There's no unhappiness, or stress allowed, because it's a Customer Appreciation Discount!
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Old 01-06-2014, 12:56 AM   #5
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


Quote:
Originally Posted by CarpenterSFO View Post
If you want to deal with missed appointments, then raise your prices by $100 (or $10 or $1000, or whatever your number is) and offer a $100 (or $10 or $1000) Customer Appreciation Discount if the customer keeps the original schedule, or does any rescheduling (a maximum of 1 time) more than 72 hours ahead of time. Or make it a percentage rather than a dollar amount. Or if this bad behavior is really killing you, don't raise your prices, just offer the discount and see if you're still ahead.

Don't make it a penalty for missing an appointment - customers will hate you for that and won't pay you. It's a discount, and it won't even appear on the invoice unless you positively put it there - they need to earn it. If they question it, tell them that keeping appointments helps you save money on their job, and you're willing to share it with them. That's the truth, isn't it?

If you miss an appointment, you decide what you should do.

Start there and see where it goes. If nothing else, you will gain useful information about your pricing. If the $100 doesn't change your customers' behavior at all, then you need to raise your prices by $400 (or whatever) and make the discount $200. Etc.

This is like the anti-looky-loo estimate charge used by some trades. It won't cover the cost if someone re-schedules, but it will eliminate 90% of the problem.

You have to apply it with discipline and ignore the excuses.

It's a perfectly fair and non-confrontational solution. There's no unhappiness, or stress allowed, because it's a Customer Appreciation Discount!
Nice idea, thanks!

I don't usually have too many customer problems, but lately, this economy is bringing out the worst in people. I've had more issues with difficult and finicky customers in the last 3 months than in years of business... I've never seen it like this before.
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Old 01-06-2014, 02:26 PM   #6
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


prowork:

I would look a little more deeply into your sales process. You need to have control to make money. These people would never think of pulling these stunts with their doctor or lawyer. You need to come across as other professionals do.
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Old 01-07-2014, 06:27 PM   #7
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


For the most part well said... keep in mind not everyday is perfect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinstaafl View Post
Most of the situations you list can be dealt with by means of a good contract and communication with the client before the job starts. Don't assume they are aware that you need to keep a steady workflow going; lay it out for them. Most folks are pretty accommodating when they understand that.

Holidays in the middle of the schedule? Work it out with the client before you start the job. Then hold them to it.

If you flat-out screwed up and can't get things done on the schedule you cooperatively planned with the client, it's time to eat humble pie (and maybe a few dollars) and work it out with him.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:19 PM   #8
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


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Originally Posted by Anti-wingnut View Post
I don't know what the questions is.

Is the wife hot looking?
Hahahahaha

Regarding holidays, take a holiday because everyone else is. YOU NEED A BREAK to rest and be with friends and family.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:37 PM   #9
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


I think you need to be the business owner and MAKE the RULES....not follow the homeowners whims

explain your schedule to the homeowner and let them know you WILL BE THERE...so if they schedule a party for your scheduled day your working while they party in the next room

your letting the customer dictate to you....they can to some degree, but they are walking all over you

you choose your customer....you may need to rethink how you do things and change your contract wording and how you talk with customers before the job starts

im only a sub, but none of my prime contractors have this issue...the homeowners actually want them to complete their work....things are scheduled weeks in advance and I always show up the exact day im scheduled w/ no homeowners telling me to cancel....

maybe you need to put the exact schedule in the contract and make the owner sign
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:45 PM   #10
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


Quote:
Originally Posted by CarpenterSFO View Post
If you want to deal with missed appointments, then raise your prices by $100 (or $10 or $1000, or whatever your number is) and offer a $100 (or $10 or $1000) Customer Appreciation Discount if the customer keeps the original schedule, or does any rescheduling (a maximum of 1 time) more than 72 hours ahead of time. Or make it a percentage rather than a dollar amount. Or if this bad behavior is really killing you, don't raise your prices, just offer the discount and see if you're still ahead.

Don't make it a penalty for missing an appointment - customers will hate you for that and won't pay you. It's a discount, and it won't even appear on the invoice unless you positively put it there - they need to earn it. If they question it, tell them that keeping appointments helps you save money on their job, and you're willing to share it with them. That's the truth, isn't it?

If you miss an appointment, you decide what you should do.

Start there and see where it goes. If nothing else, you will gain useful information about your pricing. If the $100 doesn't change your customers' behavior at all, then you need to raise your prices by $400 (or whatever) and make the discount $200. Etc.

This is like the anti-looky-loo estimate charge used by some trades. It won't cover the cost if someone re-schedules, but it will eliminate 90% of the problem.

You have to apply it with discipline and ignore the excuses.

It's a perfectly fair and non-confrontational solution. There's no unhappiness, or stress allowed, because it's a Customer Appreciation Discount!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinstaafl View Post
Most of the situations you list can be dealt with by means of a good contract and communication with the client before the job starts. Don't assume they are aware that you need to keep a steady workflow going; lay it out for them. Most folks are pretty accommodating when they understand that.

Holidays in the middle of the schedule? Work it out with the client before you start the job. Then hold them to it.

If you flat-out screwed up and can't get things done on the schedule you cooperatively planned with the client, it's time to eat humble pie (and maybe a few dollars) and work it out with him.
Sorry Bob, but Tins is right...and if you knew me and my relationship with Tins, you would know how hard that was to say.

Why go through all that BS and headache when all that you have to do is have a clear contract and start dates. As long as everything is clear when before you start there should be zero problems. Maybe the rare exception, but not the norm.

And I disagree about penalizing customers for bad behavior. It should be a two way street. I have a clause in my contract covering this subject but it will never include offering a discount for them living up to their end of the agreement. I charge for a full day if we show up as agreed by all parties. It costs me money to have someone cancel, more than if I just didn't work that day. Not only do I lose that day, but I have to bump everyone after by the day, plus the hours that I spend reworking and planning everything.

My time is money, and if you, as a customer, don't respect it, you are not a customer I desire.

But maybe that's why in the last five + years I have only had one instance of this nature.
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Old 01-08-2014, 12:49 PM   #11
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Re: Scheduling Projects With Finicky Homeowners


I agree with TNT write up a clause that says you will get some form of pay if you show up for scheduled work and they have changed their minds.

I showed up on one job once and the husband had no idea why I was even on his doorstep, luckily his wife was home. After that I started sitting down with both parties when ever possible.

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