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May 2007
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July 2007

Follow up: Are You Losing Customers Due to Poor Service?

I recently wrote about the poor service I received from a computer technician and how any small business owner can quickly lose out on an opportunity to gain a new customer. I wanted to follow up with a story that shows the extra mile that some people go to show their customers how much they're appreciated.

A couple months ago we were having some problems with our timekeeping system. I had several phone calls with the support staff and we spent a long time trying to figure out the problem. We finally had to replace the key piece of hardware that runs the system. Not the solution I was hoping for, as it's a pretty spendy piece, but it fixed the problem and it works great once again.

I thought that was the end of the story, but a couple months later, I received a package from 1-800-flowers and couldn't figure out who would be sending them. I opened it up and found a card of appreciation for my business from the timekeeping company. Granted, I had just spent a few hundred dollars from them, but I certainly wasn't expecting this type of thank you - nice touch!

Here are the flowers...


What do Cleaning Customers Really Want?

I was reading an article in Contracting Profits magazine about what facility managers really want from their building service contractors. The magazine surveyed facility managers and the results are different from what they were just a few years ago.

Believe it or not, a healthy environment for building occupants topped the list. The problem is, most survey respondents didn't really understand just what that means. Many didn't think that wiping down commonly touched items like doorknobs was all that important. But if we clean these commonly touched objects, we can help reduce the spread of germs by 99.9%. This means we have an opportunity to educate our customers on just what it means to clean for a healthier environment.

The next two areas that are important are entryways and restrooms. First impressions are important, so paying extra attention to entryways will always pay off. Restrooms have always been in the top of the list in importance, so nothing has changed here.

Green cleaning is becoming more important to facility managers, so if you haven't thought about offering green cleaning services, now might be the time to get started.

Most of the survey respondents are also concerned about security. They want the janitorial staff to be in uniform with ID badges, and they want employers to perform background checks.

And finally, most facility managers said that they'd be willing to pay more for better service. For some that means receiving fewer complaints from tenants and for others it means quick response to their concerns. The best way you can provide better service to your clients is to be proactive -- anticipate their needs so they don't have to get on the phone to call you about complaints or extra services.

Are You Losing Customers Due to Poor Service?

A couple weeks ago we had a problem with our computer network at the office. I'd been meaning to find a new computer technician but hadn't gotten around to it, so our problem forced me to start making phone calls.

I made the first call and the person on the other end answered, "Yeah, hello!"  Not my idea of a professional way to answer a business phone. I was impressed with the second person I called so I set up a time to have him come out to the office. I was there waiting at the appointed time, but no one ever showed up. After 20 minutes I called and left a voicemail. I finally left the office after waiting over an hour. I work out of my home office, so it's a special trip for me to go to our business office, and this wasted about 2 hrs of my time.

The following Monday I received an apologetic phone call, with an explanation that included a family emergency, and an irresponsible assistant who was supposed to show up in his place. So against my better judgement, I decided to give him another chance. He made a point to say that he would be there at whatever time I said, and that he'd juggle his appointments to make sure he'd be there on time. So I made another trip over to the office to meet him, and to my amazement, he pulled another no show.  Obviously this company just lost a customer.

How often do you think this happens in businesses these days?  Is it happening to you?  How do you handle it when a customer or potential customer calls you for help or the opportunity for new business?  Are you professional when you answer the phone? Are you on time for your appointments?  Do you SHOW UP to your appointments?

It doesn't take a lot of effort to be pleasant and professional on the phone and to show up to appointments on time. In fact it should be a part of who you are as a business owner. Take care of your customers and potential customers and they'll stick around for a long time!

6 Tips to Ensure the Success of Your New Cleaning Business

You've heard the statistics before - over half of new businesses fail after the first 5 years, and other similar stats. So what can you do to avoid being just another statistic? Well there are no guarantees, but the following 6 tips will help you to focus on what you need to do to make sure your new cleaning business is a success:

  1. Make a Plan. Some might call it a business plan, but whatever you want to call it, you need to have a plan of exactly what your business is all about, what your goals are, and how you plan to achieve them. I see too many people go buy a mop bucket and vacuum cleaner and call themselves a cleaning business -- no plan, no idea who their target market is and how they'll market to them, and some with no experience in the cleaning business. Before you jump in feet first, you need to do some research and make a plan of just how you plan to set up your new business. By sitting down to write a business plan you take the time to look at your new business in an objective and critical manner. Once completed, a business plan will give you a path to follow.
  2. Talk to Experts. Have you ever thought about asking other people who have "been there, done that"? Too many people think they have to do it all on their own, which is just silly. No successful business owner ever got there on his own. Others are afraid to talk to people in the same industry because they're afraid to reveal too much information. This is what's great about the Internet. Millions of people in the same industries share information every day through online discussion forums. So if you can't find anyone locally, try finding experts online. Here's a great place to start -
  3. Under-Pricing or Over-Pricing Your Services. Many new cleaning business owners are desperate for those first few accounts so they feel they need to undercut the competition in order to win the bid. Or they don't know enough about how to price their services that they price themselves out of the market. You might be interested in the following posts if you're struggling with pricing:
    What Does it Take to Win the Cleaning Bid?
    Another Cleaning Bid Won Because of Presentation, Not Price
    Highest Bidder Wins!
  4. Connect With Your Customers. One of the most important things you can do as a new cleaning business owner is to build a relationship with each of your customers. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the day-to-day running of our business, we forget just where our income is coming from. Make your customers your priority, and make it a point to check in with them regularly.
  5. Get Help From Professionals. If you have a small cleaning business, then you're probably doing what most of us do - "wear all the hats".  But it's not wise to handle everything yourself, especially if you don't have any experience in certain areas. One of the first professionals you should find is an accountant. If you think you can't afford it, think again. Your accountant will save you thousands of dollars in headaches down the road, and can offer invaluable advice on everything from how much to put away for taxes, to whether you should lease or buy a vehicle, to helping you set up your books. Two other professionals you should find to advise you right away are an insurance broker and a business attorney. Let them do what they do best, so that you can spend your time doing what you do best.
  6. Pay Attention to What's Happening in the Marketplace. One of the best ways to do this is to subscribe to trade magazines (and read them cover to cover, of course), and newsletters. There are many online newsletters that offer useful information about what's happening in the world of cleaning (Check out our weekly newsletter, Trash Talk: Cleaning Tip of the Week)

This list is just the beginning of setting yourself up for success in your cleaning business. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work, but if you take these tips to heart, you'll be well on your way to becoming a huge success!

First Day of New Account - How Do You Handle It?

When you start a new account, how do you handle it? I've seen many cleaning business owners get the account and immediately hand it off to an employee or supervisor. Then weeks later, they're wondering why things aren't looking so good. PLUS, they're wondering why it takes so long to get the job done!

Tonight we started a new account. Who do you think is doing the cleaning?  Steve, the owner. He will clean this account himself for a week or two, until he knows the account inside and out, and exactly how long it takes to keep it cleaned to his standards.

Then, when he's ready to turn it over to a supervisor and employee, he'll be able to walk them through the building and point out anything they need to know. In addition, he'll be able to track their time to see if they're doing it in the time allowed, or milking the time clock.

Here's another reason you might want to clean a new account yourself when first getting started -- production rates. We help cleaning business owners with bids every day. When we ask what their production rates are, many don't have a clue. How can you estimate your time for a bid if you don't know how long it takes you to clean? 

By tracking the time it takes to clean a certain amount of square footage, you will begin to learn your production rates. For example, if you have a 5,000 sq ft building and it takes you 1.5 hrs to clean, then your production rate is 3333 sq ft per hour (5000 divided by 1.5 = 3333). Start tracking your production rates for several buildings and you'll have a better understanding of how long it takes to clean when bidding on a new building.

When landing a new account, take advantage of the time you have in the beginning stages to set the standard for your employees and to gain a better understanding of your production rates so that you can more accurately estimate your time when bidding on new accounts.