Doing a lot of HOA snow removal, Jon Zalewski, business development manager for Professional Grounds in Lorton, Virginia, says that communication is really important. In the past, the company had struggled with some of their HOA accounts not being completely clear on contract stipulations, occasionally leading to a client refusing to pay. Zalewski says in order to be crystal clear with customers, they began sending out mass emails before snow events.
Though Pro Grounds’ contract says they typically begin plowing at 2 inches of snow, everyone in the snow business knows that only 1 inch can be treacherous in the right conditions. That’s why the contract also says they can override that threshold based on their discretion. But that wasn’t enough. Zalewski says they would still get some complaints — asking why they’d come out for less than 2 inches, and occasionally someone refusing to pay. That’s when the company began doing a mass email clearly stating their intentions. Because it spells everything out, Zalewski says it’s eliminated any possibility of complaints and helped their snow business run much smoother.
“For example, just recently we had a winter weather advisory of only around 1 inch, but because it was so cold, it was going to stick and made roads dangerous,” Zalewski explains. “We sent out our global email notifying customers that we’d be out to treat. In the email, we always tell them to respond if they wish to decline services or have any special requests.”
By putting the intentions in writing, Zalewski says it covers Pro Grounds if an HOA does decline services and there is an accident. Now it can be proven that the client was offered services but chose to turn them down. In addition, Zalewski says that emailing before a storm also allows them to communicate important messages.
“We’ll also use the mass email to communicate information during blizzards, such as a road being shut down that will prevent us from getting to them right away, or a warning that the storm is looking big and they may want to prepare to be inside for a while,” Zalewski says.At the beginning of the season, Zalewski says they get one point person from each client who is going to serve as the contact. That is the person that will receive the email. Zalewski says they aim to send emails out at least six to 10 hours before a storm so there is ample time for their customers to receive the information and make decisions.
“Our customers like it since we’re able to communicate important information to them,” Zalewski says. “And we’ve noticed that other landscapers in the area have started doing it, too. It’s a simple and easy solution but it’s working very well for us.”
Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.