Previous month:
October 2006
Next month:
December 2006

Be Creative When Increasing Your Cleaning Price

A while back we had a discussion with one of our members at The Janitorial Store about a customer who was becoming somewhat of a problem. In order to make the account worthwhile, our member really needed to raise their price, but had concerns about losing the account if they did that.

So a meeting was set up with the owners of the business, and everything was discussed. They addressed their concerns over the lack of support from the teachers (this is a daycare and the teachers are not doing their part), and also went over the original specifications list compared to the tasks they're actually performing in order to keep things cleaned the way they should be. By addressing these issues, it became clear to the customer that the cleaning company was doing way more than the original specifications list called for and they did deserve the price increase.

Rather than taking an immediate increase (a full 30% increase was necessary), our member decided to negotiate with the customer so that they could keep the account make it a win-win situation for all. So here's what was agreed upon. They decided to break up the increase into 4 quarterly increases, so that over a year's time, they'll get the full increase. In the meantime, the customer scheduled a large strip/wax job, which helped to bring in another $2600.00 of very profitable income.

This turned out to be a good situation for all. The customer is continuing to get the same great service they're accustomed to, while taking incremental price increases, and the cleaning company was able to keep their customer, negotiate a price increase, and most importantly, they were able to openly discuss the concerns they had and take steps to get them resolved.

Have you had a sit-down meeting with your customers lately? Is there anything you can do to improve or salvage your relationship? Sometimes it means openly discussing concerns on both sides and coming to a compromise that makes it a win-win for both.


Giving Thanks to Our Customers

Thanksgiving is almost here, so why not show your appreciation to your customers by giving them a "Thank you for your business" greeting card?

Many people expect Christmas cards, but not too many expect a card at Thanksgiving time. Why not give them a special treat to let them know how much you appreciate their business?  And have everyone involved in your business sign it... you, your spouse, your office assistant, your employees.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and we'll see you in December!


Are Your Accounts Free of Dust Bunnies?

Last week we went to a seminar in West Palm Beach, Florida. Of course when we go anywhere, we always pay attention to how clean the facilities are - hotel, restaurant, airport...we're always watching.

At first glance, our room appeared to be pretty clean, but then we're in the cleaning business so we tend to look a little closer than most. My favorite place to look is behind doors. You can always tell when cleaners don't pay attention to detail, because there are things they just don't do, and vacuuming behind doors is one. Here's what it looked like behind the door (click the picture for a larger image):

Dustincorner_2

Then there was the vent in the hallway:

Dustyvent_1

As we sat in the lounge area of the bar one night, we watched a cleaning person vacuum the open lobby area. It must have taken her close to an hour to vacuum what probably should have taken 15 minutes. She walked at a snail's pace and looked all around when she should have been keeping her eyes in front of her. Seems the customers were much more interesting to watch, than the job at hand.

If someone were to walk into your customers' buildings, would they find dust bunnies behind the door, in the vents, and employees who act like they have better things to do??


What Does it Take to Win the Cleaning Bid?

New cleaning companies start up every day, and they're all wondering the same thing - what does it take to win the bid?

First, you need to think about why businesses or homeowners decide to go with one cleaning company over another. There can be several reasons:

  1. They decided to go with a company who was referred to them by a friend
  2. They were looking for the lowest price
  3. They were impressed with bid presentation and knowledge of the presenter
  4. They were impressed by the professional image of the presenter
  5. They went with the cleaning company who best understood their needs and demonstrated how they could solve their problems.

Some of these reasons are out of our control, like those who are just looking for the lowest price or decided to go with a friend's referral. However, you need to concentrate on the things you can control. Start taking a serious look at the following to see what you can do to improve your situation:

  • Your Appearance. Do you present a professional appearance? Do you wear nice clothes, or a sloppy shirt, jeans and ratty shoes?  Are you freshly showered, hair combed and is your breath fresh? Do you smell like cigarette smoke? (I have nothing against smokers, but many people do and they just might will rule you out if they detect cigarette smoke lingering around you)
  • Your Personal Presentation. Do you project confidence when greeting a potential client? Or do you greet them with a wet noodle handshake, eyes looking downward, and stumbling over your words? Having good communication skills is important when trying to sell your cleaning services. You need to be able to build rapport with your prospective customers - this goes a long ways towards inspiring confidence in your ability to handle the job. People will not do business with someone who is not confident in their presentation and ability to convey that they provide a superior cleaning service.
  • Walk-Through Presentation. Do you ask the right questions when walking through the building/home? Do you have a specifications list or bid estimation worksheet that you use to record necessary information for creating your bid? Are you able to confidently answer the prospect's questions?  The walk-through is also a good time to let your prospect know that you have the tools and equipment needed to do the job, and that your employees are well-trained and supervised.
  • Problem Solving Skills. Have you demonstrated to the prospect that you can solve their cleaning problems?  You need to address their concerns and come up with viable solutions. Understanding their needs and offering solutions is what the customer is looking for.
  • Presentation of Bid Proposal Materials. Too many cleaning contractors don't put enough effort into the presentation of their bid proposal. They simply write up a quick proposal and hand it to the prospect. Put together a professional Bid Packet. You'd be amazed at the positive comments you'll receive when your prospect takes a look at your proposal. This can sometimes be enough to beat out the competition.
  • Find Cheerleaders. One of the best ways to win over prospective clients is to get reference letters or testimonials from satisfied customers. People want to hire a cleaning company with a proven track record, and having a few "cheerleaders" in your corner could be just what you need to seal the deal.

It Pays to Stay on Top of Employment Laws

I have a friend who is a Human Resources consultant. I was reading her ezine the other day and found out that there was a recent court decision that affects all employers in the State of Minnesota (where I live). Here's a quote from the ezine:

"In a nutshell, in August 2006 the MN Court of Appeals ruled that employers must pay employees all of their earned but unused vacation when their employment terminates. Many employee handbooks, including some I've written, have clauses in them that deny vacation payouts to employees who are terminated due to policy violations or who fail to provide adequate notice of their resignation."

We too have a clause in our employee handbook that states that terminated employees and employees who fail to give a two week notice of their resignation forfeit their vacation pay. After all, who wants to give vacation pay to someone who has been terminated for theft or sub-par work, or who quits without notice, leaving you high and dry? 

I'm hoping this case will be appealed to the MN Supreme Court. In my opinion, vacation pay is a privilege, and not something that employers are required to pay. In any event, it pays to stay on top of any laws that affect you and your business. You don't want to find yourself in hot water because you failed to comply to the law!