For an industry that does the bulk of its work outdoors, weather can be a cruel and unpredictable master.
Poor weather conditions cost valuable working hours and send meticulously created schedules into disarray.
While you can probably recover from the occasional delay without too much trouble, regularly experiencing consecutive days of rain or inclement weather can be a disaster for your business.
In the landscaping industry, rain season waits for no one
Lawn care and landscaping companies have different ways of dealing with the problem, depending on their size, location, and budget.
Some opt for a four-day work week, with crews scheduled to work 10 hours each day. This leaves Friday open as a back-up day to recover from possible delays earlier in the week. Others schedule jobs five days a week and use the weekend to complete any unfinished work.
Download our free white paper, Scheduling best practices for residential lawn care and landscaping crews, for advice on creating schedules that maximize productivity and increase profits.
No matter which scheduling system you choose, the key to dealing with weather delays is to be prepared. Crew scheduling software like Crew Control makes things easier by allowing you to shift schedules with just a few clicks.
Whether you anticipate five rainy days a year or 50, though, having a plan in place for what to do when the clouds roll in will help you operate efficiently despite the delays.
How to plan for rain delays in the lawn care and landscaping industry
As you develop a plan for handling weather delays, make sure to:
- Manage expectations
- Keep customers updated
- Use your time productively
Setting clear expectations with homeowners and commercial clients is important if you want to avoid misunderstandings and frustration.
You may know exactly how two hours of rain impacts your landscape maintenance schedule, but chances are, your clients don't. Their only concern is making sure their property's in great shape.
Landscaping businesses can rely on a certain level of sympathy and understanding when their area experiences severe weather, but that sympathy eventually wears off. And most of the time, if customers don't see crews in the field when they expect to (or they keep receiving notifications of delays), they can get upset.
One way to avoid this situation is to be extremely upfront with clients at the beginning of your relationship. Include language in your contracts that explains how your company deals with weather delays. Define the types of weather that prevent work from being accomplished, and share your process for evaluating and responding to conditions.
Don't just put it in the contract, though. Make sure to call it out in conversation so you have an opportunity to address any questions before problems actually arise.
Finally, don't forget to set expectations with crew members as well. If the possibility of bad weather means working unpredictable hours, let them know.
When hiring new team members, talk about what schedules typically look like and give them an opportunity to share concerns. Be clear and transparent about what you expect, and don't dismiss any fears about meeting those expectations.
Keep customers updated
Setting expectations from the start helps build a strong foundation for your relationships with customers, but it’s not enough.
Clients need to be updated as frequently as possible when landscape services are delayed. If they were expecting lawn mowing, fertilization, weed control, or other lawn care services, let them know as soon as possible when those jobs have to be rescheduled.
Text messages and email updates can be composed and sent quickly using contact information from your CRM (customer relationship management) database. For bigger accounts, or more significant delays, phone calls might also be necessary.
In addition to staying in contact with customers immediately affected by weather delays, it can be a good idea to share your status via social media.
Post to your company’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page when your schedule is impacted by bad weather. This helps customers feel like they’re “in the loop” and can serve as an early warning for clients whose service may eventually be impacted by the shifting schedule.
In the event of a major delay, consider writing a short blog post or personal letter and sharing it with your customer base. This gives you an opportunity to explain the situation in detail, including a summary of what happened, how you’re responding, and when you expect things to be back on track.
While this isn’t a substitute for communicating directly with clients, it can be an efficient way to make sure everyone has immediate access to critical information.
Use time productively
Missing a day of work in the field because of bad weather doesn’t have to mean missing a day of work altogether.
When you’re forced to stay inside, make the most of your time by looking for ways to stay productive.
Rain days present a great opportunity to take care of routine maintenance needs in the shop. You can sharpen mower blades, change oil, repair broken equipment, or clean up your space.
If the shop is in good shape, you can also use the time to handle rescheduling jobs or evaluating your pricing strategy based on the impact of weather on this year's business.
You can also research prospective clients, conduct trainings for your staff, take online classes, or network with other business owners.
Don’t wait until you have a few hours to kill to decide what to do, though. Instead, make a wish list of tasks in advance so you can jump right in when a storm shows up.
When it comes to mother nature, there’s only so much your lawn care business can do to control the situation. While you may not be able to stop the rain from falling, you can put a plan in place so your business isn’t threatened when it does.
For more advice on managing your lawn care crews effectively, download our free white paper on scheduling best practices. Inside, you’ll find tips on building a schedule, saving time in the field, and increasing crews’ efficiency.