Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How to Choose a Local Business or Contractor for your Home or Landscaping Services

Choosing a company to do anything at your home or business can be a little tricky sometimes. The first thing people do is go online and Google whatever they are looking for. For SOD installation, you may enter "SOD Installation in Dallas" and you end up with a huge list of companies. The first thing to know is a thing called the "Organic" side of Google. That is the non-advertising side of Google or the natural side of Google. The top and sides will be paid advertisements from companies who pay Google to be there. The middle is what you want to focus on because those companies got there for a good reason. They earned it.
 Don't get me wrong, Google's Adsense program works great if you have a budget for it. Many small businesses simply do not have the cash flow for it. I do not want to delve into SEO practices but I want you to know what to look for when using Google to find a SOD company.
You will also end up reading company reviews from places like Kudzu and even Google. Be aware that reviews can be inaccurate and unfair to the company the person is reviewing. There are growing problems with companies making fake reviews about their competitors. Here is a recent Blog Post about such practices. Do not let a few negative reviews discourage you from calling on that company. It is hard to verify the source of the review. Ask them yourself about the review you found online. Most companies resolve any issues they might have had with the customer. Think about where you work. Have you had any customers that were unsatisfied? The answer is probably yes. Most business will make mistakes and most businesses correct their mistakes or errors to satisfy that customer. The bottom line is find out for yourself, look at their "estimate process".
An Estimate Process is basically how the company reacts to your request. Whether it's by phone, email or a website form. A good sign of a good SOD company will be a quick return call or e-mail (not an automated e-mail, those are nice but not personal). Also note that an Estimate Process can be applied to any company that offers you any service. The Estimate Process is made up of 9 basic elements:

  • Return Call or Email Once you have submitted your request, you should get a prompt response from the company by email or phone call. 
  • Appointment Set The company should set an appointment one the day or close to the day you are available.
  • Arrived on Time The estimator should arrive on time. Most companies will give you a time slot. If the estimator is running late, you should receive a courtesy call.
  • Professional and Courteous The person that shows up at your door should  professional. In some cases that person will not look so clean cut with a pressed Polo shirt. In many cases the person showing up at your door may have some grass stains or mud on them, depending on what line of business they are in. Some companies have sales reps that only answer sales calls and do not actually do the work. That is okay to a point. The company representative should have good manners and not make you feel "rushed". 
  • Has ID and a Business Card The more ID the better. The company rep should have an ID and business card to say the least. When the company says they are sending someone to your home or business, be sure and ask them who is coming.
  • The Right Tools When it comes to estimating a service for your home or business, sometimes it takes tools. For example, when we get a call for SOD installation, we actually use a measuring device like a measuring tape or wheel. This insures that the amount of materials needed for the job will be accurate. We also use a Samsung 10.1 Tablet to take pictures and notes. There is an app called "S-Notes" where we insert pictures along with our comments and measurements. We are able to email this file in PDF format to the customer for verification of work to be done. If the guy is not using any tools and is "eye balling" it there could be something awry.
    This is an actual estimate we did for a customer. We used our
    Samsung Note 10.1 tablet. 
  • Knowledgeable The company rep should have a good grasp on what the company does. He should also have the ability to give you answers to most of your questions. He should be familiar with the materials, processes and expectations for your project. For example, when it comes to SOD, our estimator knows that one of the first things to look at is how much sun the lawn gets during the day. If it's a shady lawn then he would recommend St. Augustine or the more expensive choice Zoysia. If you're getting a lot of "I have to get back with you on that.." and "I have to call my boss", then you might have someone there that's just a person passing out brochures with the slightest clue about your needs. 
  • Estimate (quote) Emailed or on Paper The estimate is the physical evidence! Is it fair? Is it based on real numbers? Is it clear? Does it come with 15 pages of lawyer speak? How can you know? Well, I'm here to give you my opinion of what an estimate should look like for a SOD installation or Landscaping. You can relate this to other services like: Exterior Painting, Plumbing, Electrical, etc.  
Beware of the scammers:
 WARNING! The company should actually come by your home or business and not just give a an estimate over the phone. We do not give estimates over the phone. Anyone who does should only give you a ball park or at least give you a minimum installation charge, ours is $250.00. NEVER give anyone your Credit Card number over the phone if you have never met them or verified that they are a real company. There are scammers out there that will promise to do work and leave you empty handed as soon as you hand them a check. Most companies will only ask for materials up front as the down payment. And maybe a percentage of the Labor. 

What You Should See on the Estimate (quote):
  • The SOD type will be on the estimate. This would be for SOD installation. Different projects call for different materials like plywood, cement, dirt, poles, nails, etc. 
  • The SOD amount in square yards or square feet will be in the estimate. For other projects the amount of materials will be on the quote like: 50 Poles, 30 Cement bags
  •  The Labor, Materials and Delivery will be shown on the estimate. Trust me, they will charge for delivery because each Pallet of SOD weighs a ton, literally. 
  • A Short Summary of the work to be completed. If the estimate is for a long list of things, there should be a detailed summary of the work with set dates. 
  • Down Payment amount and amount due at the end of the project.

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