Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Pricing Residential Cleaning Services

September 14, 2004
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By the hour? By the room? How do you charge your clients?


Any time there is a gathering of carpet cleaners, one of the principal topics of discussion will be the issue of pricing. Some prefer to charge by the room, some by the square foot, some by the hour, and some by the job.

I am confident that there is no single manner of pricing that is correct for all cleaners or for all customers; each individual must determine which pricing method works best for him or her.

The room pricer often likes the convenience of quoting a price over the phone after a short conversation with the potential customer, since it eliminates the inconvenience and cost of making a trip to the jobsite to inspect, measure, test and evaluate the carpet to be cleaned. It also allows the customer to make a buying decision and book the job on the initial call; there's a good deal that's positive about that. Without that immediate price information the customer may launch a search of available cleaners - your competition.

Unfortunately, room pricing also sets the stage for surprises when your crew arrives at the job, invoice in hand and truck loaded with equipment and chemicals to begin the job, only to discover that the carpet is badly contaminated with animal waste or with mold from the water leak the customer failed to tell you about on the phone. Then you find that the areas to be cleaned are not accessible from the truck, and there is no water source to connect to.

No problemo. Just reschedule for another day or time when you can return with all the necessary tools or equipment. In such cases, the savings of not making the initial site visit are offset by the "dead run," but can be made up for on the second trip.

The square-foot pricer usually prefers to schedule a site visit to determine the square footage to be cleaned, to evaluate job conditions and to establish the price of the cleaning. The site visit also allows the cleaner to "pre-condition" the customer and adjust the customer's expectations. This is the opportunity to reinforce the fact that the cleaner will not be making "new carpet," but will be cleaning the carpet as thoroughly as possible. This is the time to inform the customer about permanent stains and discolorations that won't be corrected by cleaning, and to let him or her know that cleaning won't correct installation issues such as wrinkles, buckles, bulges or open seams.

It is also the time to talk about additional services such as tile and grout cleaning, upholstery cleaning, and protectors. The site visit also allows customers to better decide if you are the type of person or company that they will be comfortable having work in their home or business. This visit will give them a chance to ask the important questions, such as "What is the expected dry time," and "How long do I have to stay off the carpet?" It also allows you to firm up the price and get a contract signed. Now just schedule the work for a time convenient to all parties involved. Remember, what you tell them before the job is education; what you tell them after the job is often perceived as an excuse.

The hourly pricer may have recently visited industry Bulletin Boards on the Internet, where a widely held opinion is developing that the current revenue goal for many cleaners is in the range of $100 per hour. While this is probably a realistic goal, as many cleaners arrive at the job with well over $50,000 of equipment and often decades of experience in a very specialized and esoteric field, I am sure that many licensed professionals in the electrical, plumbing and HVAC trades, who usually charge in the $50-to-$60-per-hour range, would exhibit some degree of "dollar envy" at these numbers. But they have made their choice of profession and so have we.

The job pricer will normally take into consideration conditions such as area, fiber type, soil load, carpet condition, texture, time and day of the desired service and travel time, but will quote a price for the job without breaking it down into feet, hours or rooms. While price is not normally the sole consideration in booking or not booking the job, there may be budget constraints that will dictate or influence the customer's choice of cleaners. The customer we all want is the one that values service and results, and is less concerned with price than they are with being comfortable with the company selected for the job.

Regardless of the pricing method you choose, it is imperative that you take the time to determine your cost of doing business and structure your pricing to both allow yourself a profit and to reward your workers, who make the whole thing work in the first place, with a living wage. Hopefully one day you will be like me, over 60 and ready to quit, and you'll need enough in the kitty to live on. Put away a lot during your productive years; it's too late to start when you've lost your youth and your health.

However you choose to proceed, to you I say, "Good fortune!"

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