Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Self-Limiting Beliefs and Carpet Protectors

The biggest challenge in terms of selling more protector (and anything else, for that matter) is our own mistaken beliefs about what our customers think. Somehow, we cleaners have come to believe that we have some sort of special mind-reading powers.

It’s worth pointing out that nothing can hold you back more than your own firmly held self-limiting beliefs. Remember, whether you think you can or you can’t – you’re right.

That said, let’s look at another one of the biggest reasons that cleaners don’t offer protector to their customers: the cleaner thinks the customer thinks that the carpet was already adequately protected at the mill. Now, it makes sense to believe our customers think that way – especially if you’ve heard some of the promises made by the carpet mills and retailers to their customers. If you didn’t know better, you’d think carpet is bulletproof.

But we also have to remember that consumers are pretty smart and naturally skeptical. As a carpet cleaner, you have a unique position with your customer as an independent third party to provide them with the truth about their carpet and what is necessary for them to properly care for it.

Now, some of the confusion comes from some of the technical issues. The majority of carpet is made using nylon fibers. And when most nylon fibers are made, the fiber is extruded and the dye is applied, followed by acid dye blockers.

This is where many carpet retailers as well as carpet cleaners get confused. The acid dye blockers, also called acid dye resistors, are applied to the fiber to protect the color from staining. The fluorochemical treatment is applied in another step to protect the fiber and to protect the acid dye blockers.

The fluorochemical treatment is very similar to the clear coat that is applied over the paint on a new car. Its job is to protect the paint (as the paint protects the underlying metal) just as the fluorochemical’s job is to protect the dye blockers and the fiber. And just like you need to wash and wax your car regularly, the same is true of carpets. They need to be cleaned and retreated with a protector on a regular basis.

The fluorochemical protector is a sacrificial layer designed to take the beating so the fiber doesn’t. This layer of protector walks off, vacuums off and cleans off, and ozone and other pollution help to break it down. This is why it is recommended that carpets are cleaned every 12 to 18 months and re-treated with protector.

When fluorochemical protector is applied at the mill, it is done under high pressure and then heat cured. This heat causes the fluorine atoms to align with the tails pointed up, delivering superb protection. Unfortunately, we can’t duplicate this type of application and performance after the carpet is installed.

When we apply the protector in the aftermarket, we spray it on at low pressure and it air-cures at room temperature. This is why we need to apply it on a regular basis and to all the carpet, not just the traffic areas. In this way we are replenishing the protector that wore off, was walked off, etc. Keep in mind that not all carpets are treated with the same quality protector at the mills. At the mills, carpet is protected with fluorochemicals that have concentrations of fluorine atoms that range from 250 to 600 PPM.

The aftermarket protectors we use also vary, from 300 PPM of fluorine to an upper range of 500 PPM. Since we have to apply our protector at low pressure and room temperature, even the best aftermarket protector is going to fall short of the levels of protection offered by the mill-applied products. That’s why it’s even more important to restore carpet protector every 12 to 18 months. This way, we are protecting the superior, mill-applied protector as well as adding a new, sacrificial layer of protection after each cleaning. In this way we are maintaining the highest possible level of protection throughout the life of the carpet.

Nobody wants to be sold anything. But they do want to hear about things that will benefit them. This means that we have to take the time to explain – and show – our customers how protectors work. I once heard a great man make a statement that has proven to be true in my life over and over again, “A presentation without a demonstration is merely conversation.”

When you explain protector to your customer, you also have to demonstrate the benefits. In my seminar we give cleaners a simple little demo kit that contains a plastic tube. Half of the tube is in perfect condition and is brand new and shiny. The other half is all scratched up.

As part of this demo kit, you get some of the sharp, gritty soil from a vacuum cleaner bag and put it in a Ziploc bag. Let your customer feel the sharp edges of the soil right through the bag. This way they can understand how abrasive it is.

Using the shiny side of the plastic tube, show the customer what the carpet fiber looks like when it’s new. Explain that their carpet protector is like wax on a car; if you don’t wash it regularly and wax it once a year, the wax wears off and the paint will get scratched and damaged.

Tell them that the same is true with carpet protector. If you don’t clean your carpet and treat it with protector every year, the protector will wear off, the soils will stick to the fiber and as people walk on it will abrade or scratch the fiber.

Next, show them the scratched end of the plastic tube and explain that this is how their carpet will appear once it gets damaged by dry soils, and that no amount of cleaning can restore it to a new condition. Let them know that carpet protector protects against damaging dry soils that cause this condition.

Next, show them that once the protector has worn off, stains can now penetrate the fiber, permanently staining it. Do this by slipping a pencil inside the tube so they really get the visual impact of this point. Then demonstrate how the protector works with the demo cards that all the manufacturers provide you with. I use soda pop and cooking oil. When you put the soda on the treated half of the card, be sure not to put any on the untreated side. Instead, run it from treated side to untreated side. There’s a psychological reason for this that makes doing the demo this way much more powerful.

When it comes time to ask your customer if they would like protector, here’s the secret that will have you applying protector on 80 percent of your jobs. Instead of asking whether or not they want protector, offer two protectors. The first one is a high-quality protector; the second is a high-quality protector that you offer with a 1-year warranty (and for which you charge $0.05 more per square foot).

The way the warranty works is, if the customer has a stain they cannot remove themselves, they can call you and you will come out and attempt to remove it at no charge. If you can’t remove it, you’ll refund them the cost of all the protector you applied on the job.

Always offer the protector with the warranty first. This way, the customer is comparing the price of the protector with the warranty to the cost of the protector without the warranty, instead of protector versus no protector. Customers will most often choose protector with the warranty.

You are not really doing any selling; you’re educating your customers and giving them choices. Choices that research indicates over and over again that they want to make!

What you will discover is that when you let them choose, 80 percent of your customers will choose one protector or another. And as previously stated, 80 percent of your customers are extremely or very interested in carpet protector. Carpets are one of the biggest investments in the home. They want them to stay looking nice and are willing to pay for protection most of the time!

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