Comparing Services in Times of Economic Hardship
Published October 21, 2003 By STEVE HOUSER
In times of economic hardship, it is certainly understandable to closely examine the value of the dollars spent. Comparing products to one another is much simpler than comparing services to one another. All service businesses are not created equal, like many products in the market place. Services can only be compared to each other if the person purchasing the service has a knowledge or understanding of the business involved and the time to investigate. In order to make a fair “apples to apples” comparison between tree care companies, a certain amount of knowledge is required, plus the time to check references. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the knowledge to compare and don’t have the time. Given the current economy, some may look for a lower cost and others will value their trees too much to be concerned or have seen the potentially disastrous results from using a low cost company.
The value of a dollar goes far beyond the bottom line cost. The question to ask relates as much to the value of the dollar as it does to the amount.
If company “A” charges $10.00 less per man hour for tree pruning than company “B”, but company “B” has pruners that are twice as efficient (or well trained), company “B” costs more to the untrained eye, but is a higher value because of increased efficiency. As an example: If company “B” has well trained tree climbers who can throw a rope in a tree on the first try and are working on the tree in five minutes and the company “A” tree climbers take 20-30 minutes to begin to work, company “B” can be 3-4 times a better value. If company “B” spends more for larger, more efficient chippers, or a truck with a small crane to load logs, they are a better value. If company “B” takes the time to properly make each cut on a tree rather than torn or poorly angled cuts, they are a better value. If company “B” offers free consultation by knowledgeable, certified staff to its existing clientele, they are a better value. If company “A” can cut dead limbs cheaper but can’t say why the limbs are dying, are they really the best value? If company “A” has very little knowledge of trees, how could they know that the service they are providing is not harmful? If company “B” has an employee that answers emergency calls, company “B” is a better value (especially in an emergency!) If company “B” does not have its salesmen on commission, company “B” is a better value. Why pay commission for the sale of services that may not be required? The list could continue but in tree care, the value must be considered along with the cost, and yes, company “B” is how we operate our company.
A long-term client recently pointed to a neighbor and noted that the neighbors tree company was cheaper, expecting a response. My reply was “judging by the look of the trees and the angles of their cuts, they should be a great deal cheaper!” The age-old adage of “you get what you pay for” is true, but I would add, “If you’re lucky and you know how to compare apples to apples.”