The Carpet Cleaning 'Triangle': Winning the Cold War (Part I)

April 9, 2001
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I loved the carpet cleaning industry. (Still do.) I'm guessing you love this business too. After all, look at what carpet cleaning has given you. An exciting and gratifying career, prestige and recognition, a secure future and not to be overlooked, lots of money! Very likely you personify the "American Dream." Life is good. Congratulations!

But, remember you are only one part of the carpet cleaning "triangle." You must also focus on two other very important components of that triangle: your customer and your employees. When we examine the "emotional dynamics" of the homeowner/technician relationship the picture quickly turns ugly!

After all, what is your first time customer's primary emotion as they wait for your technician? Fear! That's right, homeowners are scared to death of your technicians, and who can blame them? Between the TV exposes on the "bait and switchers," carpet-cleaning horror stories from the neighbors, and their own bad previous experiences with other carpet cleaners, I'm amazed anyone is getting their carpets cleaned anymore! Also factor into this complex stew several recent highly publicized assaults and murders committed by carpet-cleaning technicians in the customer's home.)

But now let's peer into the soul of your (usually young) technician as he or she pulls up to the customer's home, which may have cost more than your employee will make over the next 20 years! What is your technician's primary emotion? Fear! That's right, technicians are scared to death—and who can blame them? They will shortly be confronting a suspicious and possibly hostile homeowner who very likely is older, better educated, more "successful" and who probably makes 10 times as much money as they do!

Now think carefully. What did we call the last relationship between two parties based on mutual fear? That's right, the Cold War! Simply put, your first time client and your technician are in a Cold War right from the very start. This homeowner/technician Cold War is based on fear and fear does funny things to a person.

Fear means a threat has been perceived and leads to the well known "fight or flight syndrome." In this condition an individual's adrenaline soars, their heart rate goes up and they must either flee from the threat or stay and fight! Both sides are scared here, but let's look first at the homeowner.

Think about it. What options does your carpet-cleaning customer have? They can't flee because they are "trapped" in their home so they must "fight." So what does this "fight response" do to the emotions of the homeowner?

When a customer knows they will have to "fight" their emotional state changes dramatically. They become suspicious, adversarial and hostile with a big chip on their shoulder. Customers develop a "heightened awareness" to everything around them and will fly off the handle at the slightest hint that something isn't just right. This is the emotional landscape your innocent technician walks into with a first time carpet-cleaning client. Not a pretty sight, is it?

Things don't look any better when we examine the emotional state of your employee either. Technicians usually are unsure of themselves, intimidated, in awe of the home and furnishings, confused and unsure of how to proceed and very, very afraid.

It's been well said, "We fear what we don't understand and we avoid what we fear." Therefore, due to their fear of the customer, many carpet-cleaning technicians do everything possible to avoid dealing with them. Simply put, your technicians often "hide out" from the customer as they work in their home.

When your employees shrink away from dealing with the client they are breaking the "First Commandment of Success" in carpet cleaning:

"Over 80% of how the homeowner decides if the carpets are 'clean' or not is based on their relationship with the technician actually doing the work."

Ignorance of this "80% Principle" is why so many carpet-cleaning technicians burn out and search for other, less stressful employment. Not coincidentally, ignoring this First Commandment is why so many carpet-cleaning companies go out of business!

For all too many, this "triangle" of the customer, the employee and the management is filled with anger and resentment. Every day is a confrontational mess of negative feelings, mistrust and bitter emotions. So tragic, because it doesn't have to be this way.

Remember, "we fear what we don't understand" or to put a positive spin on this saying, "We are comfortable with what we know." Do you know your customers and what they really want from you? Are you sure? Understanding the emotional dynamics between everyone involved in the "Carpet Cleaning Triangle" will be your key to success!

Next month, I'll address "The Carpet Cleaning Triangle: What Does Your Customer Want?" in part two of this three-part series.

I welcome your suggestions and comments. E-Mail me at:

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