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February 2010
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April 2010

Can You Read Your Cleaning Prospects' Body Language?

Body language is considered an “unspoken language” and most people are surprised to realize that the majority of communication is through body language. As a business owner who is trying to sell cleaning services, it’s important to be able to read the body language of your prospective customer. If you notice that your customer has his arms crossed and isn’t maintaining eye contact, then you know you’ve got a problem.

Here are some basic body language characteristics:

Positive:

  • head is up or tilted
  • shoulders square
  • erect posture
  • firm handshake
  • smiling
  • eye contact
  • open arms
  • feet flat on floor
  • hands in lap or at side

Negative:

  • head down
  • shoulders dropped
  • slouching posture
  • weak handshake
  • no expression
  • no eye contact, shifty eyes, rubs eyes, eye roll
  • crossed arms
  • hands in pockets or fidgeting

If you’re talking with your prospect and she suddenly folds her arms across her chest and starts shaking his head "no," you’d better make a move fast. You might want to try going back and picking up where the conversation took a turn for the negative and see what you can do to change things back to a positive direction.

What have YOU learned about reading body language? Post your thoughts by clicking on the Comments link below.


Should You Own Commercial, Residential, or BOTH Types of Cleaning Businesses?

Many cleaning business owners have intentions of running a commercial cleaning business but struggle with getting started. They find it easier to get residential cleaning clients, so in order to get some cash coming in quickly, they start out doing residential and slowly move into commercial cleaning.

If you have a cleaning business that does both commercial and residential cleaning, you've no doubt struggled with running both at the same time. After all, residential cleaning is done during the day and commercial cleaning is primarily done at night. Plus, residential cleaning is business-to-consumer, whereas commercial cleaning is business-to-business, which means your marketing efforts will not be the same, nor will your customer service issues. Not to mention you’ll have two different cleaning crews to train.

The way you receive your income is different too. One reason people like residential cleaning is because they are paid immediately, which means good cash flow for the business. Commercial cleaners must invoice their customers for a month’s worth of cleaning. The trend for invoicing has changed however, as more companies are invoicing at the beginning of the month rather than at the end. It helps the cash flow considerably, but they do not receive immediate payment the way residential cleaners do.

Residential cleaning can be somewhat more stressful in that you are dealing with homeowners, not business people, and you are cleaning where they live – their personal space. They can be much more critical of the cleaning that takes place in their home – perhaps letting you know that something is slightly out of place, or the pillows weren’t arranged properly on the couch.

The cleaning itself tends to be more detailed and your cleaning staff will be dealing with antiques and valuables that they won't typically find in commercial buildings. They can also have major obstacles like grease filled kitchens, rust stained bathroom fixtures, and pets. In addition, schedules change often without notice, lockouts occur, dogs left loose, etc.

Productivity is slower in a home than in an office, so if you cross-train employees for both jobs you may run into problems. That is because residential cleaners want to clean everything they see, whereas in commercial cleaning, some things are cleaned on a less-frequent basis.

Adding residential accounts to your commercial cleaning business (or visa-versa) can provide your company with another income stream, but it is challenging to run both at the same time. Begin by entering the market slowly and hire a separate cleaning crew for each segment. You’ll also need separate training programs and supervisors for each segment. It may not be easy, but it is possible. The key is to put good systems into place and hire the right people to help you succeed.

Do YOU do both residential and commercial cleaning? How does it work for you and what are your challenges. Post your comments by clicking on the Comments link below.


Do You Have A WISH LIST Of Potential Customers?

One of the most frequent questions we get from new cleaning business owners is, "How do I market my cleaning business?" Many say they've sent postcards, dropped off flyers and put an ad in the paper but nothing is working!

The problem is, none of these methods of marketing are really targeting anyone, and doing something once does not get anyone's attention unless you happen to catch them right at the moment they need to find a cleaning company.

Who is it you want to work with? What gets you excited as you drive around town looking at buildings (or homes if you do residential cleaning). Do you want to clean every dentist office in town? Do you want to clean for all the million dollar homes in a particular subdivision? This is where to start with your marketing plan.

First decide who you want to work with, and then start making your Wish List of at least 25 prospects who fit the profile. Let's use the dentist offices as an example. Start doing your research on all the dentists in town, and get the names of the decision makers. Now make a plan for marketing to them and make it happen. If you call on the phone and get turned down, don't give up. If you send one postcard, don't stop there. Make a plan for multiple "touches" to reach your prospects and don't give up at the first "No". "No" either means not yet, or you haven't given them what they need to say yes!

Creating Wish Lists of potential customers gives you the opportunity to create a plan for marketing to the clients you most want to work with. If you continue on the path of "hit and miss" marketing, chances are you won't move your business forward any time soon.

Have you started YOUR Wish List yet?

How Often Should You Inspect Your Cleaning Employees' Work?

You already know that inspecting your cleaning employees work is so important to make sure they clean everything they are supposed to and are performing to your standards. But how often should you inspect their work and how detailed should you get?

Years ago we developed a very detailed checklist that we used to inspect our employees' work. It was great for the supervisors because it helped to train them on what to look for as they walked through the space. But because it was so detailed, it took a while to do so these inspections. Our supervisors were very busy every day, so the inspections didn't happen as frequently as we would have liked. In fact they sometimes happened just once a month or longer.

A lot can happen in a month's time, so we needed to figure out a better way to do shorter, more frequent inspections. We developed a less detailed checklist that covered the things that are most important to the client -- making sure all restroom supplies are filled, cleaning the front door glass, closing and/or locking certain interior doors, making sure chairs are pushed into desks, etc.

This type of inspection can be done quickly and followed up on quickly as well. Our supervisors were  well-trained enough so that as they did the short inspection they also kept their eyes pealed for other things like dust on window sills, build-up in sinks, magazines not straightened in reception areas, etc. They had room to make notes of other things they observed.

We found it to be much more effective to have shorter, more frequent inspections than it was to do less frequent, more detailed inspections. We still did our detailed inspections, but kept those for quarterly review.

How often do YOU inspect your cleaning employees' work? Post your thoughts by clicking on the Comments link below.


How To Create a Memorable Experience For Your Commercial Cleaning Customers

The pressure is on. Can you feel it? Every commercial cleaning business owner is under pressure to retain existing customers and find new customers. Not an easy task when the economy is unstable. The advice you've heard from the experts is to differentiate yourself from your competitors, but how do you do that? One way is to create a memorable experience for your customers -- an experience they've never had with another cleaning company.

Creating a memorable experience is also a great way to strengthen your brand. So how do you do this? By changing the culture within your business and making sure every employee is on board with the process. Creating an experience for your customers starts with their first exposure to your business (perhaps through your marketing materials), to the presentation of your cleaning proposal, to the attitude of the employee you send to clean their building.

Every time your customers are exposed to your business is an opportunity to create a memorable experience. And when they have an emotional connection with your company, it makes them feel special. The trust they have in your business is also strengthened by the experience, as long as it is a positive one. Negative experiences can erode the relationship, which is why it's important to make sure everyone in your company is on board.

What is your potential customer's first experience with your company? Is it a not-so-memorable flyer you mailed "To Whom It May Concern", hoping it got into the right hands? Or did you send the decision maker a set of chess pieces with the message, "Times are tough! What is YOUR strategy for saving on your cleaning budget?"

When you are given the opportunity to meet with the decision maker, what do you do make your first meeting memorable? Do you "wing-it" and hope for the best? Or do you come prepared to ask specific questions, listen to the prospect's concerns and then give examples of how you have helped other customers with the same issues? Do you solidify your meeting by quickly following up to answer any questions you promised to research? Do you send a hand-written Thank You card? Do you personally deliver a bound proposal and present it in a follow up meeting with the decision maker?

The memorable experiences don't stop when you've gained a new customer. In fact, this is when you start building trust and solidifying the relationship. Your supervisors and employees play an important role in creating more memorable experiences for your customers. Do they come to work dressed appropriately, and are they cheerful and polite to employees working in the buildings they clean? Do your supervisors work to build a relationship with their point of contact at each location and strive to please them by responding quickly and cheerfully to requests? Are they proactive in making suggestions on services that may need to be performed?

Your office personnel also play an important role in the customer experience. How they answer the phone and deal with customers and potential customers goes a long way in creating a memorable experience. Even the bookkeeper can help by putting a message like "Thanks for your business!" on the invoices, and perhaps enclosing a newsletter or special offer with the invoice. As you can see, there are unlimited ways to create a memorable experience for your customers.

In order to stay profitable in the cleaning industry, you must find new ways to retain your existing customers and gain new customers. Think about the times you've had a positive and memorable experience. Didn't you want to tell other people how great it was? That's the benefit of standing out from the crowd. Start making a list today of how you can create memorable experiences for your customers in your own company. And be sure to solicit ideas from your supervisors and employees. Getting them involved in the process empowers them to carry out the goals for your company.

How do YOU create a memorable experience for your customers? Please share your thought by clicking on the Comments link below.