One-Man Vs. Two-Man Crews - Part 3

August 1, 2006
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Do one-man crews make sense for you?


Last month I explained how my on-the-job research strongly suggests that one-man crews not only have a major advantage in terms of building repeat and referral business, but that it costs less to operate two one-man crews than a single two-man crew.

As I explained, going to one-man crews was a big winner just on the basis of reduced expenses. But I was really surprised to find out that the real money was in the increased income generated by one-man crews!

At first this doesn't make sense because we knew that we were cutting down each crew's jobs from six per day down to just two or three. But when we actually did the test, we found out that the amount of revenue two one-man crews brings in far surpasses what a single two-man crew can do.

Remember, one of the most important reasons for using one-man crews is that the technician will be in the house longer and have more opportunities to communicate and develop a relationship with the homeowner. These conversations open up a lot more opportunities for additional services. The homeowner asks a lot more questions, and sales of upholstery cleaning, carpet protector and other services shoot up dramatically. In addition, as a more personal relationship develop, homeowners share more about themselves and their lifestyle, revealing more of their cleaning needs.

The bottom line is that additional sales per job were 30 percent higher with one-man crews. This extra work was extremely profitable because the technician was already in the house. And these sales were obtained not through some slick salesmanship or arm-twisting or trickery, but simply because of the relationship that was able to develop when the crew consisted of only one person. It still comes down to the old sales adage that "people buy from people." And maybe we should say that, "people buy from people they know and like."

There's no question that it wasn't easy to go to one-man crews at first, and we had challenges in terms of learning how to move furniture with one man, dealing with the most efficient ways of setting up and tearing down, etc. And some techs simply couldn't function as a one-man crew and for that reason I had both one- and two-man crews.

But Carl Zeman, a tech of mine, proved it could be done in a way where he made more money, I made more money, and the customer was much happier with every aspect of the experience from start to finish. Once I saw that establishing a personal relationship with our customers led to all kinds of increased sales and increased customer satisfaction, I wondered how far we could go. Could we sell even more services to our customers and maintain excellent customer satisfaction as well as the high levels of repeat and referral business?

I had always been hesitant to tell customers about additional services like carpet protector, pet-odor decontamination, upholstery cleaning and all the other services we offered, thinking that they would feel that I was pressuring them or trying to get them to buy something they didn't want. And it is true that customers are naturally guarded when confronted with someone trying to sell them something. Just think how you are when you're browsing in a store and a salesperson asks if they can help you. Unless you have a very specific need or question most of the time you'll say, "No thanks, just looking."

But if you're talking to a friend about a new plasma television or truckmount you're thinking about buying, you'll listen to everything he has to say about it and engage in an animated back-and-forth conversation. This is the power of developing the customer relationship. You are no longer someone trying to sell them something. You become a trusted ally on the same side of the table helping them solve their cleaning problems. The difference is that you are truly communicating and the customer's defenses have come down.

Once you have gained this trust, never betray it! If the customer senses that you are trying to manipulate or take advantage of them, you will lose their trust forever.

The good news is that there is no need for manipulation or trickery. Your customers want additional services like you can't believe. You just need to create a situation where they are receptive to communication. And then, of course, you must communicate. Remember, we aren't in the CIA; we have to let people know what we do.

Like many carpet cleaners, I was always on the lookout for diversification options, things I could do to take my business in other directions. But what I learned was that while diversification was good, deepening my market - getting the most out of the customers you already have by providing them with services they want and need - had the most impact on my profits and success. This opportunity opened up dramatically for me once I went primarily to one-man crews and started having really effective communication with my customers.

The results of this deepening were huge increases in carpet protector sales, upholstery cleaning, drapery cleaning, specialty deodorization and much more. Customers also began to repeat more often, and referrals also increased dramatically.

I developed some tools to enhance my customer communication without actually saying anything. One of the most effective was what I called a "Pre-Conditioning Letter" that I sent to my customers a few days before we were scheduled to do the job. In the left margin was a list of all the services we offered. A note at the bottom of the list informed them that the services that were checked were the services we were scheduled to provide, and if they would like any of the other services we offered, to please call us in advance so we could make sure we allowed enough time during our visit.

The letter also requested that they move small, breakable items; explained that we didn't move loaded china cabinets or entertainment centers or pianos; discussed carpet mill recommendations for cleaning and carpet protection; and presented our carpet protector warranty program. This letter really helped "open the door" for communication with my tech when he arrived. (To find out how you can get an updated version of this letter, e-mail me at support@cleaninginstitute.com.)

What I learned during this experience really changed the way I looked at the carpet cleaning business. I like to say that you won the Lotto when you got into this business, you just have to cash the ticket!

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