Cleaning Business Owners: One Way To Add Value To Your Clients During Flu Season

I'm sure you've heard this before - it's important to add value to your clients in order to retain them long-term. But what exactly does that mean - to "add value"?

Here is an example of what one cleaning company does to add value. 

Fall and winter is the time of year we all start talking about the flu and how to protect ourselves from contracting it from co-workers, friends and family.
 
As a cleaning business owner, you know that washing hands, plus effective cleaning and disinfecting can make a difference in protecting people from the spread of germs. So why not help your clients protect their employees in the workplace and at home?
 
Partner up with a graphic designer and/or printer in order to have signs made up that can be placed around the office and in the rest rooms. Use the signs to remind employees that proper hygienic practices are especially important during flu season.
 
Here is an example of a poster that is available from the CDC. You could have your printer make copies and laminate them for you. Or, you could have a graphic designer create something similar, but add your logo and business name to the bottom.
 
Cover-your-cough
 

Here is another poster on flu prevention from the State of Minnesota:

 
Flu-prevention
 

Here is a poster from the CDC that offers hand-washing tips for many different situations.

 
Wash-hands-tips
 
Another idea for adding value to your cleaning clients is to place disinfectant dispensers in strategic places around the office. You may offer to install the dispensers at no cost, or perhaps even provide the dispensers for free as long as they buy the product refills through your company.
 
You might also suggest the employer provide facial tissues in common areas and conference rooms.
 
Many building owners and managers know this is something they should do for the people working in their buildings, but often times they get too busy to follow through and make it happen. If you are proactive by putting a plan together and helping them implement the signage and communication efforts, it's a tremendous value-added service that your clients will appreciate!

Cleaning Affects Productivity: Are You Educating Your Prospects?

Most company managers are focused on their day to day business activities that include acquiring new customers, managing employees, keeping expenses down, and increasing profits. All of these activities impact their bottom line. But few managers are aware of the enormous hidden costs they are paying for, by having an unhealthy work environment for their employees.

The cost of healthcare today has a huge impact on a company’s bottom line yet managers don’t seem to be overly concerned with employee health, illness/injury prevention, reducing absenteeism and promoting overall wellness in the workplace. But what if someone were to quantify the benefits of a healthy workforce and provide definitive proof, connecting a clean work environment and a healthy workforce to increased productivity and a healthier bottom line?

Studies Prove that Cleaning Affects Office Worker Productivity

Cough-air-qualityIn a study of 400 managers and employees conducted by HLW International LLP, employees’ productivity levels were determined to be heavily influenced by the cleanliness of the office in which they worked. A clean office produced quantifiable results when it came to employee productivity. They reported a 5% productivity gain ($125,000) in a 100-employee office with an average salary of $25,000.

Additional studies performed by the Minnesota Department of Health reported the following: Good housekeeping protocols that thoroughly removed dust from surfaces were found to have both health and comfort benefits.

  • When building occupants experienced mild symptoms of distress or discomfort (dry eyes, itchy or watery eyes, dry throat, lethargy, headaches, chest tightness), they began to perceive a loss in performance
  • This performance loss ranged from 3-8% depending on the number of symptoms
  • Exposure to a reservoir of dust such as old carpet, affected subjects’ typing skills, arithmetic, logical reasoning, memory and creative thinking skills by 2-6%

Proper Cleaning Can Improve Student Productivity 2 to 8%

A Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) (Minnesota Department of Health, 2008) report regarding the impact of cleanliness on student performance in educational facilities also supports the theory that the average productivity impact of proper cleaning can range from 2 percent to 8 percent.

According to a 10-month survey of more than 25,000 individuals conducted by Advance PCS Center for Work and Health (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002), off-task workers cost businesses an average of $250 billion a year, or approximately $2,000 per worker. The estimates were derived from their salaries and estimates of time spent at work engaged in reduced on-the-job performance because of illness. Cost impact was estimated by multiplying lost productive time (absence hours plus hours lost from reduced performance) by the individual worker's hourly labor cost.

A study published in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine in 2003 reported that, based on a random sample of 28,902 United States workers, health-related lost productive time (LPT) costs employers $225.8 billion per year, or $1,685 per employee per year (Stewart, 2003).

The Connection Between a Clean Environment and Productivity

Research has shown that there is indeed a direct connection between a clean and healthy work environment and worker productivity levels. Companies may be experiencing low employee productivity due to a less than acceptable work environment without realizing it. This is where you come in. You can sell the value of your cleaning service by educating prospects on the importance of a clean work environment. Inform your prospective customers on how a clean work place can have a substantial impact on their employees’ productivity and can reduce their company’s health related costs at the same time.

It stands to reason that a poor work environment means poor employee output. Instruct potential prospects that with the proper cleaning regiment, procedures, and quality control principals in place, you will save them money and improve their bottom line. Quote the statics and watch them take notice.


Keeping Your Cool with Un-Cool Cleaning Customers

Being a cleaning business owner, you are well aware of having to deal with unhappy customers. They may be upset about poor service, a door left unlocked, lights left on, garbage missed, and so on and so on. But what happens when the tables are turned? Our customers can try our patience as well. How many times has a prospect or customer showed up late for an appointment or not at all? What about a customer constantly being late on a payment, asking for additional cleaning without an additional charge, or just plain rude or obnoxious with you or your employees for no apparent reason? Instead of emotionally reacting to them, keep your cool and try to resolve the situation in a friendly manner.

It would be easy to just cut these customers loose and move on but as a business owner, you are well aware of how difficult it can be to find customers in this highly competitive cleaning industry and these tough economic times. Of course, you don’t want to allow these people to take advantage of you but you also don’t want to lose these people. The last thing you want to do is blow your stack and risk the chance of not only losing the customer, but blemishing your business name and brand. Anger is a completely normal human emotion and everyone has experienced it. It’s when this anger gets the better of you, causing you to lose your temper, which results in an abrupt, unpredictable and unfavorable response that quickly becomes detrimental for you, your customer, and your cleaning business.

Here are some tips on keeping your cool.

  1. Wait to respond. When your blood pressure begins to boil, delay your response until you have cooled down, especially if you need to contact the customer. This will allow you time to examine the issue and respond with a professional attitude.
  2. Focus on something positive. Go to your happy place! By focusing on something positive or visualizing a happy experience you had, you will redirect your anger and you will be able to get over it more quickly.
  3. Predetermine your desired outcome. Our first reaction when someone gets snappy with us is to snap back. After all, you want to make them feel as lousy as they made you feel, right? Wrong. This will only escalate the situation and in most cases, cause you to lose a customer. Always treat your customers the way you would want to be treated, not the way they may be treating you.
  4. Relax. Simple relaxation tools such as deep breathing will help to calm down your angry feelings and relieve tense situations.
  5. Reason with yourself. When you’re angry, your thoughts become exaggerated and dramatic. Remind yourself that getting angry isn’t going to fix anything and may only make the problem worse.
  6. Listen and pacify. Just accept the fact that this person may be having a bad day, week, or month for that matter and is taking it out on you. You never know what is going on in someone’s life. Don’t be defensive, but rather try to calm them down and soothe the situation out. After all, we are all human.
  7. Use humor to derail your anger. Think of something you read or heard that made you laugh. Maybe a funny email or joke from a co-worker. Remember to never take anything too seriously.
  8. Take a break. Give yourself some personal time off. Take a walk or grab a quick snack, but whatever it is, try to remove yourself from your immediate surroundings. 

When you do lose your cool, and we all do, remember to just say you’re sorry. It’s OK to skip the blame game, take responsibility, apologize, and move on. Follow these tips and you will feel better about yourself when you handle heated situations in a professional manner.


Presenteeism: Do You Want Your Cleaning Technicians Working When They're Sick?

Cough-air-quality-180x226I recently attended the I.C.E. Recertification class at the ISSA Convention. During the class, Dave Frank discussed a word many people had never heard of -- Presenteeism.

Presenteesim means an employee comes to work but is not fully functioning, due to illness.

How many times have your employees come to work while sick? For that matter, how many times have YOU come to work while sick? For those of us from the "Baby Boomer" and older generation, it was practically a badge of honor to come to work sick! It proved our dedication to the job and the company, and how we could push ourselves through almost any kind of discomfort in order to get ahead.

Presenteeism is still happening today, but it is no longer considered a display of weakness to stay home in the eyes of many employers. That's because they finally realize it's better to have one person go home sick than to have illness run rampant through the company. And even worse, to spread that illness through their clients' buildings or homes.

A little known fact regarding presenteeism is that productivity can be reduced by 30% or more, which is often more costly than absenteeism. Here are some additional negative effects of presenteeism:

  • Employees take longer to do their tasks than they would if they were healthy (thus the loss of productivity).
  • Quality of work is decreased. When people are ill, they are less focused on the task at hand, so the quality of work suffers as a result.
  • Sick employees lack initiative. They basically want to get through the day so they can go home and rest.
  • Lowered ability to perform at their peak. When people are healthy they are able to perform their best work. This is almost impossible to do when sick.
  • Decreased quantity of work completed. Most cleaning technicians do the basics when sick, and let some of the more detailed cleaning slide. This can throw the whole cleaning schedule out of whack.
  • Lack of motivation. Most of us are simply not as motivated when we're sick.
  • Inability to be social with coworkers. Workers that come to work when ill are not terribly social, which can drag the team down.

Do you have a problem with presenteeism in your cleaning company? If so, there are usually specific reasons for this:

  1. Your company culture. As the cleaning business owner, it's time to look at yourself to see if this problem stems from the culture you've created. Many cleaning business owners are often times short-handed, which puts added stress on the rest of the employees and the owner. When you show that you're upset when an employee calls in sick, it creates a culture of fear of calling in sick.
  2. Job protection. Some employees may feel their job could be in jeopardy if they call in sick, especially if there is a perceived company culture of having to work while sick.
  3. Lack of sick days or PTO. If you don't offer any sick days or paid time off, many employees will come to work sick, purely for economic reasons -- they simply can't afford to be off a day of work, even it it's because they're sick.
  4. Overwhelmed and overworked. Some employees will forgo taking off due to illness for fear of coming back to work to an even heavier workload. If they know you don't have an adequate replacement to handle things while they're gone, they know they'll be even more overwhelmed than they already are when they come back to work. This is especially true in the case of supervisors who have a lot on their plate.

Whatever the reason for presenteeism in your company, if it's a problem, it needs to be addressed. Here are a few tips for reducing presenteeism in your company:

  • Review your company culture and company policies to make sure there is nothing that might make employees feel obligated to come to work when sick.
  • Offer paid sick days or PTO so employees don't have to feel as if they can't take off when sick for economic reasons.
  • Cross-train employees so others can fill in for the sick employees so they don't feel as if things will fall apart if they can't make it to work.

Do you have a problem in your cleaning company with presenteeism? Please share your thoughts on this topic by clicking on the Comments link below.

 


One Cleaning Business Owner's 4-Step System For Handling Complaints

We recently had a member post a question in the Discussion Forum about how to handle a particular complaint he received from a client. Another member shared his 4-Step System for handling complaints in his cleaning business.
  1. Apologize (I'm so sorry)
  2. Empathize (I can understand how frustrating it is when your trash is overflowing)
  3. Ask for forgiveness (Please forgive us)
  4. Take action (Here is what I'll do...)

These are four important steps. If you miss one of them, the customer will feel as if you really don't care. And regarding #4, be sure you do what you say you'll do and do NOT make empty promises. If you have a recurring complaint on your hands, examine what is happening behind the scenes. Chances are, it's a system failure and until you fix the system, you'll continue to have complaints and lost clients.

One other tip he shared to help avoid complaints, is that he has employees send a text message to their supervisors so they know what needs attention, or what might have happened that night (ie: couldn't get into an office to empty trash, etc). This helps you to be be proactive first thing in the morning to alert your contact person at the account.

What is YOUR system for handling complaints? Do you have one? Please share by clicking on the Comments link below.


Is Your Cleaning Customer Always Right?

We post questions about four times a week on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and often get some great discussions going. We recently asked followers this question -- Is your cleaning customer always right? Here are some of the responses we received:

No they are human beings too. Lol

No person is 100% right, 100% of the time. That doesn't mean we don't approach customers with the utmost respect because they're human beings and inherently deserve respect, but it does mean that we need to be careful about how reactive we are in certain situations. I've found that these sorts of "right vs. wrong" scenarios are more about mutual respect and mutual understanding than about some arbitrary absolute. I could go on and on, but this is, in my opinion, a false tradition in customer service.

NO. Sometimes they are just plain crazy or they want something for free and the trick is figuring that one out.

I would say no, but you always want to find a solution to make them very satisfied.

I would have to say that "Yes, the customer is always right."

No ... not always. Their opinion does matter, but definately not always right.

No, the customer is not always right but we are professional when pointing it out. We do everything we can to provide the service they need otherwise we would be out of business.

Years ago....absolutely! Theses days....no so much...at least based on what I see day-to-day.

Most of the time.

Yes, always that what I had learn since I been in the cleaning industry.

No. But I'm not sure if that's the real goal of either parties (to be right or not). I believe we're both looking for our need to be met. When we're able to clearly explain the benefits of our products (which ISN'T cleaning) in the way the client receives information & we're able to collaborate on solutions where we both take ownership on the outcome, there's no concern about whose right or wrong. It becomes "Are we the right fit for each other? "

The customer may not always be right but they are always the customer.

I think we can all agree that our clients are very important to us and we want to make them all happy no matter what it takes. That's where the "customer is always right" stems from. But we also know that there are those clients that are a little "looney-tunes" and we'll never be able to make them happy. But I agree that being right or wrong really isn't the point. When we find ourselves in these situations with a client we need to solicit their feedback on what is going to satisfy them. In the case of "Miss looney tunes", where they're being totally unrealistic or even belligerent, then it's decision time. What are you going to do to satisfy this client to the degree you are able, and then how are you going to move forward? If it's an ongoing problem, then perhaps you aren't the right fit and you'll best serve your customer by recommending someone that CAN help them in the way they deserve.

We'd like to hear YOUR take on this topic so post your thoughts by clicking on the Comments link below.

P.S. Please join our Facebook discussions by "Liking" our page at
https://www.facebook.com/thejanitorialstore

And link to me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeanhanson

 


Do You Keep Your Promises To Cleaning Clients Or Are You Full Of Hot Air?

How many times has someone in business made a promise to you that they didn't keep? For example,

  • "Stop in on Thursday to pick up your business card order" -- but the cards weren't ready.
  • "The technician will arrive between 8am and noon" -- but they didn't show up until 1pm.
  • "I'll call you at 10am tomorrow to update you on the status of your order" -- but they never called.

It's so frustrating, isn't it? And unfortunately it happens way too often. The sad thing is, many of these same companies boast about their great customer service all over their website and marketing materials. But in the customer's eye, customer service means doing what you say you will do and following up when you say you will. In fact, these days, that is the MINIMUM expectation when it comes to customer service. People expect you to go above and beyond just doing what you say you will -- it's called under-promising and over-delivering.

So what I want you do to is to take a moment and think about all the things you and your staff promise to do for your clients. For example, when a customer calls, asking someone to come over to clean up a coffee spill, does your receptionist say she'll send someone over within the hour, but they don't show up for 3 hours? Where was the communication break down?

In order to rectify a problem like this, you need to have better training and follow up systems. Perhaps a customer log placed by the phone that lists the reason for the call, what needs to happen, by when and by whom. Then train everyone that answers the phone that it is their responsiblity to make sure any promises they made are commnicated to the person responsible, and that follow up occurs to make sure the promise was kept.

It's so easy for your staff to make promises to customers. But if they don't do the important next step of following up to make sure their promise was kept in a timely manner, then they're potentially causing customer frustration that can result in your customers seeking out another cleaning service. And the sad thing is, you may never know that the reason they left could have been avoided had your employees simply kept their promise instead of filling them full of hot air.


Ask Yourself These 7 Questions To Figure Out Why You Lost Your Last Sale

The prospect went with someone else for their cleaning service. Darn it! I know they liked me, and it really felt like it was going my way. But they gave it to someone else!

Instead of licking your wounds, I challenge you to ask yourself a few questions to figure out why you lost your last sale. Let's start with the easy ones.

1. Were you on time or were you late? The RIGHT answer is that you were at least 5 minutes early.

2. Were you organized? If you carry collateral material about your company, a measuring device, notebook, pen, tablet, etc. is it all organized so that you don't fumble around looking for things?

3. Were you prepared? Did you do your research so you weren't asking the prospect to tell you about their company? Remember, it's your job to know! If you called on a residential prospect, were you familiar with the neighborhood and the type of clientele that live there?

Now ask yourself the tough questions. And be honest with yourself! If you don't pass muster with these questions, it's time to do something about it or you'll continue losing out to your competition.

4. Were you able to overcome all the objections confidently? If not, you have work to do. You should be prepared ahead of time for the objections you'll hear so that you have a confident response that will satisfy the prospect.

5. Did you feel as if you were on the defensive through most of the visit? If you find yourself always defending your price, the quality of your service, or other tough questions posed by the prospect, then it's time to work on your confidence level. If you aren't confident that your price is worth every penny, the prospect will see that as an opportunity to negotiate. And if you're not confident about quality control, employee longevity, or a host of other subjects, you'll probably find yourself on the defensive throughout the visit. This will NOT get you the client!

6. Did you appear desperate to make the sale? Too many people, especially those new to the business, are often anxious to make the sale. And the client will read that as desperation. They won't give their business to someone that is desperate for it.

7. Did the prospect ask "doubting questions"? Doubting questions are questions that prospects ask to make sure you have the ability to do the job. For example, they may ask things like:
- How much experience do you have?
- How long have you been in business?
- How many clients do you have?
- How do I know you'll show up when you say you will?
- What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow?
- How do I know you'll send me the same employee to clean every time?

Even though you thought the sale would go your way because you got along with the prospect and they seemed interested, it's not enough. They need to not only LIKE you, they need to trust you and believe in you. And when you're confident in your ability to handle the job at a price that makes sense, then you've got a much better chance to close the sale.

 


Do You Offer Exceptional Customer Service To Your Cleaning Clients?

There's no doubt about it - the cleaning industry has become very competitive. And in these days of battling scores of companies willing to price-cut to get clients, it's becoming more and more difficult to differentiate your company from all the others. Or is it?

Every time I ask a cleaning business owner if they train their employees on how to treat their customers, the answer is almost always the same - NO! It is rare to find a company that does any additional training besides the obvious procedural training on cleaning and safety. But that's where the training always seems to end.

Of course the common excuse is that there is barely time to train them on the basics of cleaning, much less trying to squeeze in time for customer service training! My answer to that? MAKE the time! You can't afford NOT to.

Everyone wants loyal, long-term clients. But attracting new business is not enough. Retaining clients is just as important if not more important. And providing exceptional customer service makes this possible. Your clients want to be treated well, and they want cleaning technicians that understand this and know how to interact in a positive, caring way. This is what is going to keep them coming back month after month, year after year. Of course you still need to deliver on your cleaning service promises, but when you can do that with a staff that always places priority on customer satisfaction; well then you've got a combination that fosters customer loyalty.

If you don't know where to start when it comes to training your employees on customer service, we've got the answer. Check out the Customer Service Training Program, PLUS the bonus webinar: How to Create Happy Customers Through Well Trained Employees.

We've done the hard work for you, now all you have to do is implement the training - and we give suggestions in the webinar on how to do just that!

P.S. If you provide residential cleaning services, watch for the upcoming Customer Service Training Program created especially for residential cleaning technicians.

5 Tips For Dealing With Unhappy Cleaning Clients

We've all had them - unhappy clients. I've even talked to some cleaning business owners that dread coming into the office each day because they're wondering what messages will be on their voicemail. Can you relate? You come into the office to have 3 voicemails and two of them are unhappy clients!

Obviously if you've got an unusually high number of unhappy clients, you've got a bigger underlying problem to deal with. But for the occasional call that we all get, here are 5 tips that should help you deal with the client and diffuse a potentially unpleasant situation.

  1. Make an effort to speak to every client that has a bad experience. It will help you in both establishing client expectations as well as identifying process problems. It is also a proactive approach to use with your clients so they feel as if their concern is important to you as the owner of the cleaning business.

  2. Gather as many facts as you can, and then call and ask the customer to tell you their experience. Do not call and tell them to say you have all the facts and here is what you will do.  Let the customer tell you their story.

  3. Apologize, and do it sincerely. Convey your regret that you failed them and accept responsibility.

  4. People want options and they want to feel as if they have control over the service they're receiving. So offer more than one option to resolve their issue, or let them tell you what will make them happy.

  5. Follow up after the issue has been resolved to make sure you met their expectations.

As long as you act quickly, remain calm and show respect for the client, you should be able to resolve the matter in a way that will satisfy your client.