- THE MAGAZINE
You may have heard it said that success or failure in the cleaning and restoration industry is all about relationships. Well, believe it. I’ve never met a cleaner who went out of business because of soil removal problems. Informal industry surveys reveal that 80-90 percent of sales in established businesses are directly attributed to repeat or referral business. People will not refer a company they were not pleased with and certainly won’t call them back to their own house. This may all sound very obvious on the surface, but 9 out of 10 jobs come from a happy customer. The challenge lies in identifying which steps to take that lead to this level of customer satisfaction and building in a program to ensure you achieve these levels.
While quality results are certainly important, it may surprise you that clean carpet alone is not what prompts repeat or referral activity. Quality results prevent complaints and unsatisfied customers, but do not generate referrals. A customer that receives the minimum, which they expect, will probably not feel the level of loyalty and happiness required to prompt them to recommend you to a friend or keep your name until next year. I’ve heard marketing specialists in our industry refer to making customers into cheerleaders or salesmen for your company. In other words, develop a relationship beyond just “satisfied.” Make it your goal to identify the customer’s expectations and exceed them in every way you can. Deliver more than they expect and they will be quick to tell everyone they know.
Let’s look at some of the things that go beyond getting the carpet clean. A few years back, the DuPont Company conducted a market survey of carpet cleaning customers and as a part of that survey asked what criteria they used in selecting a carpet cleaner. Although getting the carpet clean ranked in the top five, it did not rank in the top three. The primary criteria for selecting the cleaner, and therefore a good indicator of a customer’s expectations, were: confidence, convenience, and credentials. Issues such as certification, being on time, having the proper insurance, flexible scheduling, furniture moving, and years in business were specifically mentioned as key to getting the customer’s call.
Creating the perception of value in the eye of the consumer goes beyond a good job and/or a low price. American consumers have repeatedly demonstrated that they will gladly pay more if they can see the value. Extras such as reminder or follow-up phone calls, courtesies such as cleaning the door mat, making (and keeping) specific appointments instead of “sometime between 8 and 12,” or applying carpet protector in high traffic areas are all ways of exceeding the customer’s expectations. Take a few minutes to visit and learn a something about your customer.
People prefer to deal with humans and not impersonal robots. Do everything you can to create that personal touch in your business.
After reading this article, think about whom you regularly conduct business with and why you conduct business with them. Ask yourself why you use a particular supplier, accountant, gas station, banker, or grocer. Is it only because of the product or the price, or is it the convenience, the support or the service? Success in a service business is all about relationships. Build strong customer relationships and keep your customers coming back and referring you to their friends.