Ask Steve

Ask Steve: How Important is Being Personable to Building Relationships with Clients?

Most carpet cleaners enter this business with a "technician mentality" and never rise above it

man at door, shaking handsHey Steve,

I don’t know if this is a question or more just a comment on what I think I’ve finally learned about this business!

Back in my early days I worked for several national carpet cleaning franchises. I noticed that the guys who seemed to have the happiest customers where the ones that had the best personalities for dealing with people.

This was something that really bothered me because I knew the guys with the personalities were typically the guys that cleaned the worst. It didn't seem to matter how good a cleaning job I did technically. These slick guys had more requests to work for their customers again and they got bigger tips! Now, being the competitive guy I am, this stuff really bugged me!

The problem was I tended to just go in and get the job done right, collect the check and be on to the next one. But after struggling with this philosophy for many years, I’ve finally learned that the customer’s perception of the job is mostly based on the tech’s personality (or lack of it) and very little on the actual cleaning.

Since I have started my own business I have had to get outside my natural comfort zone of being quiet and not saying much to the customer. Now I always try to comment on a possession they obviously take pride in or I talk about something that interests them.

Steve, I have found monumental results doing this stuff! I find the customer remembers me and is way more likely to use my services again. It has really been something amazing to watch happen. It took being in business for myself to finally be concerned about every facet of a customer’s experience instead of just the actual cleaning quality.

I know I’ve been going on and on but does any of this make sense to you, Steve?

-Finally Got it in Phoenix


Wow, Finally, you just summarized my first morning class orientation of SFS! So of course it resonates!

Seriously though, I’m delighted you were A) able to analyze this and B) "put on a new personality" when dealing with customers. Most cleaners never think of the former and even if they do, they don’t have the strength to achieve latter.

You see, Finally, most carpet cleaners enter this business with a "technician mentality" and never rise above it. Coincidentally, their profits never rise either and therefore the failure rate for new start-ups in this industry is incredibly high.

Sure, quality is very important in both carpet cleaning and restoration. (I was one of the very first Certified Restorers in the country so obviously I believe in having technical knowledge and skills.) But, as you have painfully discovered on your own, what we call in SFS the "emotional dynamics" of the job count for even more in the perception of the customer.

In fact, one of the cornerstone principles of SFS is the “80% Rule” which states, “80% of how the customer decides whether you did a ‘good job’ or a ‘bad job’ is based on how they feel about the person actually doing the work.”

So ideally you will win over the 80% covered by building a professional relationship with the client and doing a great technical job. Sounds like a guaranteed cheerleader to me!

Now Finally, most owner/operators instinctively realize that they must build a relationship with the customer before their hard work will get the appreciation it deserves. And when do things fall apart? When an owner/operator hires their first employee and expects this still-wet-behind-the-ears technician to have the same insight and drive that the owner does!

NOTE: If you stay as an owner-operator you must do it right. In fact, I have a special report that helps you analyze the pros and cons of staying small called “Are You a Lone Wolf?” If you would like me to e-mail you a free copy, write me at and put the words “ICS Lone Wolf” on the subject line.

This is where most carpet cleaning businesses stub their toe big time, Finally - no orientation or training for employees on the emotional dynamics of working in the customer’s location. Stay tuned for this customer service training for employees in future “Ask Steve”columns.

 Steve and ICS want to consult for you! For a personal reply, write Steve HERE with your questions, problems, struggles and challenges! Your help is on the way! Watch for a new “Ask Steve” in the ICS eNews every Thursday. Register to receive it by clicking here

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