Answering Homeowners' Questions about your Business
After a few years in the business you will start to notice that there are recurring questions homeowners will ask. Some questions deserve to be asked, and deserve good answers. Some questions are asked simply to test you. Then there are the questions that homeowners ask simply because they've heard they should, and they don't even apply to our industry. Let's dive into the Top 5 most common questions a Tree Service encounters and the best ways to answer them.
This, often paired with Question 2, is one of the top questions you will get asked by homeowners that they think will help them determine if you are a true professional or not. In many industries being Licensed means there was some type of education / test to pass involved in acquiring a license in your specific line of work. This is ALL OVER the place in the Tree Service Industry. For example- here in Michigan there is no governing body, company, or system that regulates the Tree Service Industry, license wise. Surprising... we know. Should that change? Another Question for another time. Here, there is no specific book to read, test to pass, or piece of paper we need to acquire that allows us to perform tree work in our State. Even if we WANTED to get licensed, it doesn't exist. So when homeowners ask, the answer is no. Obviously, if in your area a license is required- take the necessary steps to do so. But, again, for those of us left in that unregulated area understand that this is not what the homeowner is going to want to hear as they may have been misinformed and do not understand- they expect you to have something that is unavailable to you. Your best bet is to explain how the system works, assure them you have a business license or are a legal business based on your state's requirement (and if you aren't legal you need to get that taken care of yesterday.) These laws vary state to state and you also have varying options, such as choosing between being a Sole Proprietor, LLC, etc. Again, more questions for another day. Research, call a professional, get your ducks in a row. You definitely need to have this all in check- seeing as you'll need to be a 100% legal business in order to get business / liability insurance, which you should not be working without- as we'll cover next. If you don't like leaving the homeowner with the answer of no, get the next best thing and become a Certified Arborist, which we talk more about in Question 3.
We don't suggest you answer this question with- "Duh!" But, duh! Our question to YOU, if you don't have it, is WHY ON EARTH NOT!? You are partaking in a field that is rated Top 3 most deadliest jobs in the country. Obviously the rule and goal is to be as safe as possible at all times. Safety first. But even with everything put into place correctly- education, experience, the best gear, the best crew- accidents happen. You do NOT want to be held financially responsible for a smashed fence, a hole in the roof, damaged gutters, or the worst case scenario, a life being harmed. Insurance not only protects the homeowner, it protects you too. You should want this for your business even if the law told you otherwise- which it does not by the way.
Let's see... Are you?
A Tree Surgeon
Oh. Sounds fancy. Let's see what a Tree Surgeon is:
A tree surgeon is a horticultural maintenance engineer who is responsible for felling trees, pruning branches and shrubs, planting, replanting, splitting logs and hedge-cutting.
So. Yes. You are an Arborist.
Interestingly enough though, confusion surrounds this word for many homeowners, as what they think they may be asking, but are lacking the right verbiage, is: Are you a Certified Arborist?
This is a special Certification you can earn after in depth studying and passing a test that is done at a testing facility. What you will learn through the program touches on climbing, soil, tree biology, cabling, lightning protection, and other aspects of general tree care. This does a great job of setting you apart especially with homeowners who aren't just looking for a removal, but insight into their trees, their health, and any additional information you can provide. If you're looking to elevate your professionalism, start here!
This is something we hear from time to time and we are shocked to find how many companies are saying NO to this question, when we think you should be saying YES!
Here's some things to think about. We understand- cash is King. Often the next form of payment is a check, and although there are no fees attached to that check, it does have the ability to bounce. We've all been there. Your ability to accept payment via cards can help them and you in many ways, even with fees considered (and many are 3% or less, so it's truly not the worst.) First- this is perhaps the only way they can afford to pay you. Saying no to a credit card may be saying no to their money all together. Second- it's instant. No waiting around for a check to arrive in the mail, no need to stop back by for cash. The card is either swiped or paid online via an invoice and it's done. Your money is on it's way and usually arrives in your bank in less than 3 days. At one time it was illegal to charge your client the 3% credit card processing fee, but in many areas now it is not, so you can often compromise with them saying Yes, but stating there is a small added fee, which many people find understandable. Again check with your country / state to find out details.
This is a question we all hear a lot, but we're all answering differently. Our view is you need to be charging appropriately for your time and your service, and a discount should not be offered, even if you plan to take that wood and turn around and sell it- and here's why. Time, fuel, wear and tear x2. By taking the wood you are adding time, often a lot of time onto your job. You are burning fuel to get your truck and trailer back and forth with every load you go dump. You need to take into account the wear and tear of things, and know there is upkeep with all equipment which isn't free. Once the wood is back to the yard there now has to be more time and man power spent splitting it, which also takes fuel, and there's no doubt going to be wear, tear, and maintenance needed down the road. All of these things need to be factored in in order to make the $65 a face cord worth it. Know your worth. Value your time. Break down your costs. Charge for the removal of the wood.
We hope diving into these often-heard questions helped you and will allow you to be more confident in your answers the next time you are presented with them!