Tree Dude

Tree ConsultantWe scheduled the tree dude to come out to look at -  guess what –  trees. That’s what tree dudes do. He arrived at the agreed upon 9 O’clock, but exactly 4 days past the one we originally scheduled. His excuse, and I quote: “I was busy.” Shockingly, I wasn’t shocked.

Please make note of the “expectation” level in your trade, and how to summarily trounce it. In tree dude’s case, “showing up” equates to a Nordstroms level of service.

And yes, in case you wondered, he was in a decade-old white GMC work truck, with the faded logo of the former company who had it. Transmission fluid leaked at a transfusion-like rate on our brick pavers. Whatever. It’ll save me on Round-Up for my between-brick weeds, but what if I actually didn’t want Trans-Medic flowing down my driveway?

He points at the 80 year-old pine tree leaning precariously over my house, which prompted the call. “That’s a big ‘un.” I had noticed that too. He rubs his stubbled chin, paces around the base of the tree, looks at its neighboring trees, then re-surveys the driveway. “How we gonna get that outa here?” he says to no one in particular. He paces back toward the truck, leans against it, looking upward and mutters, “I can’t take that down unless you get approval from the ARB.”

Oh my. The dreaded ARB.

In our historical/hysterical neighborhood, the ARB is supposed to be the “Architectural Review Board” but was renamed “Always Ranting Badly” since they are content to debate the finish on the screw heads of your fence until the original need for the fence has dissipated. Again, note the expectation. (What is your perceived reputation? True or not, perception is a customer’s reality.)

Be the customer on this job with me. Does this guy get the job? Well, the ARB didn’t lose the sale. Nor did Tree Dude’s “other” guesses cause it. It was because of the following sales killer that may happen in your business, daily, without your knowledge.

To help you out, our old neighborhood has lots of trees. And many are, as you would guess, huge and old. If a cloud gathers on the horizon, we lose power. Yet many thousands of squirrels (aka “rats with bushy tails”) think our neighborhood is Disney World without the Gift Shop.

So, in terms of ‘market’ for tree dude, we would be considered ripe so to speak, or fruitful to take the pun farther but completely accurate. To a plumber, it would be a long street on a hill filled with basements that tend to flood twice a year. To an electrician a nice area that had seen a few garage break-ins but no security lights. A golden opportunity.

Yet tree dude chose to create a miserable waste of time. He was 4 unapologetic days late. Knew our address. Knew the ARB had to be involved in our area, failed to let us know. So, the visit was a waste, and requires another visit after ARB. Seems a conscientious business person would know the “do or die” questions prior to making the trip.

He won’t be called back. This is not punishment or editorial fodder. It’s life. If we’ve wasted this much time and have yet to see the saw, it won’t be his saw we see when someone fells the tree. (Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

“I’ll get you up a price” he says, unaware of my calm decision. Wanting to be respectful of more wasted time, I replied, “Well, why go to the trouble if the ARB says ‘no’?”

“Just in case you want me to do some other work for you or your neighbors.”

Wow. Late on round one. Wasted this appointment. Already bumping for an upsell and asking for a referral.

When I don’t call him back, I imagine he’ll blame it on the ARB. When jobs don’t come he’ll blame it on the economy. If he ever rides by and sees a blank spot where the tree used to be, he’ll say I shopped the job and went with a lower price. None will be correct.

I feel for him in a misguided kind of way. I want to help in a more misguided way. But if a tree falls on a consultant and no one is around to hear it, did it make an impact? Ponder.

This article, which we thought was PERFECT for Greenspiration Home, has been reprinted with permission from Adams Hudson and Hudson, Ink Corp. Hudson, Ink is a marketing firm that specializes in marketing consulting for – oddly enough—contractors!  We hope they are listening.

9 Responses »

  1. Sadly, a sizeable percentage of the contractor pool thinks this way—that the service they offer, in the manner in which they offer it, is so exclusive, so unsucceptible to suspicion, that they are immune to a client’s watchful eye.

    Most contractors see this form of neglect by a preceeding contractor as an opportunity. Most won’t hesitate to tell you that, in this market, every pruning job counts, that as a service provider the contractor will offer his work cheerfully and dependably, regardless of the meteorologic or economic climate. Most won’t withhold pertinent information on the job, in an attempt to further the illusion of exclusivity.

    I learned long ago that, in the vast majority of our fields of endeavor, there are very few trade secrets left. It’s all been written, done, executed and elaborated upon, time and again. The key is to do what you say, when you say you are going to do it, and do that consistently and with ardor. People will tend to notice when you walk the walk.

  2. Tree owners satisfice on trimming and removal jobs all the time.

    One of the things i notice when a citizen calls an arborist/tree services is that
    this scenario so eloquently captured can repeat two or three straight times!

    Different tree company same result.

    The tree service I work for is not much better
    but we are just enough better to be considered a very good player in our market.


  3. I for one enjoy having “tree dudes” as competitors, it makes my sales-life so much easier. Show up on time, clean vehicle in a uniform with company logo, business card in hand; deliver the quote in straight forward, legible format, follow up timely for questions, deal with the local regulatory boards and the work will flow your way. Let the “tree dude” live, his folly is our favor…

  4. Interesting article that brings up many thoughts. There are no (or, at most, very few) excuses for making and then missing an appointment with no call or explanation. However, we have found in our market, setting an appointment and doing all the right things as far as timeliness, professionalism, etc. leads to unacceptable results on a percentage basis. In other words, being the first out and educating the customer was eating up far too much time and leading to lower than acceptable win percentages.

    Our data showed that while everything about their experience with us was superior, they would go with another bid as little as a few percentage points less in price. Worse, they were using all of our recommendations!! This, while it was taking us exponentially longer to do a single quote – set a time, meet it, spend an hour talking about not just one tree but all the stuff on their property, etc. etc.

    This experience was NOT the exception, but the rule. It is the exception that a homeowner (and we are talking high-end homeowners here) will stick with you after giving exceptional service on the front end and backing it up with a reasonable price.

    And a final note – I think homeowner’s like to think they are not this way, but again, our data proves otherwise. It must be like the other phenomenon that we have found in our loss reviews: 100% say they verified and received from the competitor an insurance certificate with the homeowner’s address printed on it…EVERYONE says they did it. Yet we only have about 1% of our new customers do that when contracting with us (and we tell them, beg them, plead with them to do it!!)…how can that be???

  5. Thanks Trish for sharing this article. Loved the “Always Ranting Badly” but more important, I needed this kick in the xxx to start sharing some of my less than positive stories to show home pros where they can improve their actions … and also for homeowners who should hold us more accountable.

  6. Sounds like this guy (customer) was attempting to skirt by the rules in his neighborhood by hiring the “Tree Dude” hoping he would just do the work without questions and cheaper than a knowledgable Arborist. This person knew the rules. None the less the tree dude was wrong and should have contacted the potential customer to tell them his schedule problems. ISA Certified Arborists are held to a code of ethics. I don’t believe any of the codes were broken. Quit whining and hire another tree service. One that at least sounds reputable. I like Bobs take on the situation…. His folly our favor… priceless ! There are options for leaky trucks. Fix it or put something under it and never park a leaking truck on a driveway.


  1. Tree Dude: Cutting Down Trees Around Your Home – Who NOT To Hire for the Job | CSR News | Green PR and News | Green Conduct
  2. Are there arborist or tree services to avoid hiring? | Ask An Arborist

Leave a Response