Cleaning & Restoration Association News

The Carpet Cleaning ‘Triangle’: What Does Your Customer Want? (Part II)

“Women need underwear but women want lingerie.” Leslie Wexler, President, Victoria’s Secret. Understanding the difference between the “needs” and the “wants” of their customers has made Victoria’s Secret an incredible success. Now think what this concept could do for you.

Far too often, the carpet cleaning transaction is a “confrontational mess.” Much of the time, the carpet cleaner and the homeowner wind up the job by hating each other’s guts. It’s no coincidence that TV stations usually pick the carpet cleaning industry to do a “bait and switch” expose. Customers are more aggressive, more discriminating and certainly more stressed than ever before—and they expect more too!

So how can you win this “Carpet Cleaning Cold War”? You can’t, unless you focus on both the customer’s needs and wants. So the question is, “What does your customer want?”

It’s been well said that any customer desires only two things from any buying transaction:

  • A solution to a problem (Need).

  • To feel good about the people and processes used to solve this problem (Want).

Solutions and good feelings, needs and wants. Pretty simple, right? Yes and no. Sure, new cleaning chemicals and equipment have made it almost laughably easy to make the carpet at least look clean. If you can’t provide a visually appealing solution to the customer’s perceived problem of soiled carpets, it may be time to consider a career change!

But when we examine the emotions and feelings of the homeowner, it gets more complicated. If you (and your employees) can add these “customer good feelings” to your carpet cleaning “arsenal,” then you will win the carpet cleaning “cold war.”

Note: No matter how “liberated” society becomes, it still seems the female in the house gets stuck dealing with the carpet cleaner. So the list below refers to your customer in the feminine sense.

Secure. Don’t smirk. Women have always felt uncomfortable being in their home alone with a male technician. Now they have even more reason for fear due to several highly publicized assaults and murders committed by carpet cleaners on their female customers.

Reliable. Arriving on time is the common way of defining reliability. But customers also need to have confidence in both your employees and the results they will produce. What’s the best way to breed confidence in your customer? By feeling and displaying professional confidence in your abilities. It’s just one more reason to invest in technical training for you and especially your employees.

Consistent. Corporations spend millions achieving the same consistent product. Have you ever had a really bad hamburger at McDonalds? Your customers crave the same consistent experience and normally view any change with suspicion. Interestingly, this aversion to change holds true even when you are changing procedures or equipment in an effort to improve service. The solution? Anticipate the problem and solve it beforehand with communication. Explain to your customer why you are making the changes in procedure.

Courteous. Sadly, the phrase “common courtesy” just isn’t common anymore. Drill into your employees the need for words like “thank you” and “please.” What’s the best way to do this? Set the example yourself by showing good manners within your company. Then insist on the same from your staff. In my company, we always said, “Everyone gets treated with respect and dignity, even when they don’t deserve it!”

Personal Interest. Careful here! Not too much “personal interest,” especially if your technician is of the opposite sex. It is possible to maintain a “professional distance” emotionally from the client and yet still display personal interest in their lives. How do you do this? Focus your attention on their carpet and related issues.

Friendly. People are just so very lonely today. A smiling, cheerful demeanor will put the customer on your side long before your wand touches the carpet.

“Clean Cut.” Sure, this is a controversial call here, and you have every right to dress/look any way you want. But remember we’re talking about the average customer’s perception here. And admit it or not, you do subliminally affect your customer’s feelings about you by your choice of grooming and attire. First, why make life hard on yourself with your dress/grooming? Second, why do you permit your employees to create a negative impression with the appearance they choose to present?

As an industry, we are much more comfortable talking about pH, CFM, psi and a dozen other technical/equipment topics. But the battle for the mind and heart of the customer is not won with technical topics. Instead, it’s based on the relationship between the homeowner and the person doing the work. Remember that your customer “needs” clean carpets, but she “wants” to feel good about the person and company providing this service.

So focus on consistently providing good feelings to your customer. Then, both of you will declare peace (or at least a truce) in the carpet cleaning “Cold War”!

In the July issue of ICS Cleaning Specialist, we’ll address “The Carpet Cleaning ‘Triangle’: What Does Your Employee Want? (Part III).”

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

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