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January 2007
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March 2007

Do Your Cleaning Customers Trust You?

We always talk about "building relationships" with people in order to build your cleaning business, and we truly believe this is the best way -- at least if you're looking for long-term customers.

Now that you've worked on building the relationships, how are you going to keep that relationship going with your customers? One of the most important things you need to do in order to keep your customers long-term, is to gain their trust. How can you do that?

  • Under-promise and over-deliver.
    Don't just strive for delivering exactly what you say you'll deliver. Strive for OVER-delivering. For example, if a customer asks if you can come in sometime in the next week to do some carpet spotting, don't just come in a few days later to do the spotting. Sure, that will make them happy, but if you come in TODAY to take care of it, then you'll probably WOW them when they come in to work the next day to see the spots are gone.
  • Be reliable...always.
    If a customer needs something, respond quickly. If you tell the customer you'll get back to them by tomorrow, then get back to them by tomorrow. If you provide a specialized service like carpet cleaning, follow up with them to see if they're satisfied. None of these things take a lot of time, but each time you do them you build trust with that customer.
  • Tell the truth.
    Never lie to your customers. You'll lose their trust and lose them as a customer faster than you can say Mississippi. Sometimes people lie, cover-up, or stretch the truth when they find themselves in a sticky situation. This is not the right way to handle your customers. They'll see right through you. If you've done something wrong or made a mistake, own up to it. You'll earn your customer's respect and probably keep them as a customer if you always tell the truth.
  • Ask questions.
    Asking questions shows the customer that you're taking an interest in their situation and want to help solve their problem. Asking questions helps you to understand what's going on, and gives you the information you need to find the right solution. The customer will trust you more because they know you're trying to the see situation as they see it.
  • Provide excellent service.
    Hold yourself and your employees to high standards. The fewer times your customer has to reach for the phone to call you with a complaint, the more trustworthy you'll become in their eyes. Chances are, when they pick up the phone it will be to ask for your advice in dealing with a problem they've encountered.

Building trust with your customers doesn't happen overnight, it takes time. However it doesn't take a lot of effort to build trust. It's those the little things that can make the difference - calling to follow up, replying to their calls immediately, and providing the best service you can, all contributes to building trust.


Quick Stop at Dry Cleaners Nets Long-Term Account

A few years ago I stopped at the dry cleaners. I noticed their carpet was pretty dirty and asked if they ever have them cleaned. The owner came out and we started talking about it and she asked me to give her a bid. So I gave her a price and suggested we put her on a regular carpet cleaning maintenance program of extraction cleaning once a year and bonneting every three months. She was very happy with the job and asked me to give her prices on her three other locations in town. We also set them up on the same carpet cleaning program.

I also noticed that the windows were pretty dirty. The windows were usually painted with dry cleaning specials, and when the special changed, they didn't do a very good job of cleaning off the old special. So the owner asked me to give her a price for washing windows at each of the locations too. Pretty soon we started washing the windows at all 4 locations once a month, inside and out.

If you've ever visited a dry cleaning facility, you may have noticed a lot of dust flying around in the air and clinging to the rail system. In our client's 4 locations, the dust was extremetly thick and I mentioned that we had the tools to remove the dust from all the rails and equipment. So the third job we ended up getting is a deep cleaning of each location once a month.

Most of the dry cleaners were located in small strip malls. So in order to make our monthly visits even more profitable I decided to visit other stores in the area. I let them know that we're at the dry cleaners every month to wash windows, and that we also clean carpets regularly. So we ended up with even more window washing and carpet cleaning accounts, in part because we made the effort to stop in and offer our services, and in part because of the excellent referrals we got from each of the managers at the dry cleaning locations.

No matter where you are or what you're doing, be observant and and carry your business cards with you. You never know when an opportunity may present itself -- a quick trip to the dry cleaners, striking up a conversation while waiting in line at the grocery store, or talking with another parent at your child's sporting event -- many common situations can often lead to a profitable new account.

And the opportunities don't stop there! Continually think of ways to upsell your existing customers and find even more customers who are located nearby. This new account could have ended with a simple carpet cleaning job. But I continued to build the relationship with the owner and made other suggestions on ways we could improve the cleanliness of ALL her locations, and as you can see, it turned out to be a great account!


Another Cleaning Bid Won Because of Presentation, Not Price

Last month I posted about a cleaning contractor who won a new bid even though he was the HIGHEST bidder. Another one of our members at The Janitorial Store just shared that he also won a recent bid even though he didn't have the lowest bid price. Here's what he had to say:

"Thanks to you, Jean & Steve and the information you make available to us. We were awarded with another long term contract. Not because of the bid price, there were two lower bids than us, it was because of the bid proposal forms and the presentation. The client thanked use for a professional and very detailed walk through, Bid Proposal and Final Contract. She said she has received bid prices jotted down on scrap sheets of paper from one company! Just goes to show you that the information you have here really does work along with a professional presentation. Thanks again"

Don't follow the path of so many others and bid with a low price just to get the job. You're not only doing a disservice to yourself and your business, but to the cleaning industry itself. Spend time working on your personal presentation and the presentation of your bid proposal. When you can show the prospect the value you bring to the table, they're happy to pay a price that makes sense -- and that price doesn't have to be low!


Have You Identified Your Ideal Client?

I'm reading a book called "Duct Tape Marketing" from John Jantsch. John is a small business marketing expert and has some very useful information on how to market your business and make it "sticky", just like duct tape. What does "sticky" mean? It means your customers want to "stick" with you so they'll keep coming back for more!

In the section on identifying your ideal client, John talks about three things you need to consider in order to determine if you've identified a viable market for your business:

  1. Do they want what I have?
  2. Do they value what I do?
  3. Are they willing to pay a premium for what I do?

Here's an example: if you've started a house cleaning business and are going after people in a low-income neighborhood, you'll probably discover that they might want what you offer, but they're probably not willing to pay a premium price for the service. However if you target an upscale neighborhood of homes with a higher market value where doctors, lawyers, and busy professionals live, then you've probably found a market that not only wants what you have, but they understand the value of paying someone else to clean their house since they just don't have the time. And, they're more than willing to pay a premium for the peace of mind they'll have knowing they can come home to a clean home every week.

So as you think about creating an "ideal client profile", ask yourself these three questions to make sure you've made a wise decision.


It's All About Relationships - Even Your Website

I receive an email newsletter from John Alexander, an expert on SEO (search engine optimization). His last newsletter had a tip that surprised me a bit, coming from someone who is an expert on the technical aspects of marketing your website.

" ...whatever industry you're in, form real, lasting, honest relationships with others. These relationships should never be one-sided and never solely for personal gain, because your motives will always show through. ...business is about 'making money,' but life is 'all about people.'"

I talk to cleaning business owners every day and many of the ones just getting started are very impatient when it comes to starting their cleaning business. They want customers NOW, and as a result, they take a very clinical approach to marketing their business. I mean, come on, who has time to "build relationships"? 

The reality is folks, those relationships that you build will be the foundation for your success as a cleaning business owner. Sure, you might get some one-time jobs or sporadic jobs by taking the fast approach, but how satisfied will you be with your business?  As John mentions, people will see right through you when you make it one-sided. And the result is that they'll be turned off and run the other way.

The same goes for your cleaning business website. If you really want to attract people to your business, make your site more personal and inviting. Let them know why you care about their problems and how you're going to solve them... show them your picture so they know who they're dealing with...give them an easy way to contact you.

Change your way of thinking about how to market your cleaning business, including your website. Forget about your immediate need for new clients, and let the people you meet and your website visitors know that you genuinely want to help them. When you always remember that it's about the "relationship", things will take off and become fun!