Ask Steve

Ask Steve: How Can I Avoid Surprising a Customer with Price?

Dollar signsGood morning Steve,

So I thought you and your readers would enjoy what happened to me a few weeks ago. This lady called me and never even asked me about price over the phone. So I figured - whatever!

We set up an appointment for the cleaning and upon arriving and I asked for a “tour” of what she wanted cleaned. I measured, figured the price and when I gave it to her she had a shocked look on her face!

Before I had a chance to say anything, she told me the last guy that cleaned her carpets was half what I was charging! But then she also told me that she could no longer reach the last guy since his phone number was disconnected!

But you would have been proud of me, Steve! I kept my cool! I calmly explained our charges, the methods we offer along with what we include in our base service, etc. I then told her that I have a profit margin I have to stay within to remain in business. I then, smiling, said, “Uh, perhaps your last cleaner didn't know what his necessary breakeven point was and that is why his phone is disconnected!” (The homeowner smiled at this.)

So then she started asking me, "Well, how much if we don't do the bedroom?" and "How much if we don't do the stairs?" After reviewing the pricing schedule I innocently mentioned that if she needed to speak to her husband about the price before we clean that I could reschedule for her. That got her moving! She said, “I don’t need to get his permission for anything!  Just go ahead and do it all right now!”

I did a great job on her carpets with lots of your SFS positive “moments of truth” and the homeowner watched the entire time. She got a big kick out of my presentation. I put air movers in and had most of her home dry before we left. My helper and I were there for a little over 2 hours. The bill was $328 which she happily paid.

So, as the client was writing the check, I asked her if her “other guy” took this long to clean her home. She said "Oh no, he was never here for more than an hour and was running the whole time!" I gave her a refrigerator magnet, a bottle of free lifetime Spot Out, my stamped customer comment card and two business cards. She asked if I had some more cards because she has a large family and lots of friends!

Steve, here’s what is fascinating! Just in the last two weeks, I’ve received four jobs just from this lady’s enthusiastic referrals! Now these are the cheerleaders I want! Thanks for helping me develop them!

But I still would like to avoid even the hint of a negative moment of truth by surprising my customer with a seemingly high price, even though they don’t ask for a bid beforehand. Any thoughts, Steve?

-Happy in New Hampshire


Atta boy, Happy! You see, like I told you in SFS, people really don't care how much you charge. What do most of them want? In order:

1. The "Illusion of Control": Everybody wants to at least feel like they are in charge in their own home. So that is why you always give your customer “control.” For example, ask permission for every action and give them options to choose from.

2. Trust and confidence in the service provider both personally and as a company: This is why those little details (I call them positive moments of truth) are so important. Everything from your grooming to the lettering (and condition) of your service vehicles to how far you stand away from the front door to putting down a front door mat to how and where you bring in your equipment to… well, you know!

NOTE: For a free 32-item “Moment of Truth” Residential Carpet Cleaning Checklist, just write me at stevet@jondon.comOr I can send you my Moment of Truth Restoration Checklist. Or what the heck, just ask and I’ll e-mail you both of them!

3. A "show" that sets their mind at ease and impresses the homeowner: Every time you walk into a customer’s home you are putting on a stage play. This is where my concept of “Putting on the Customer’s Eyeglasses” comes into play. Every action you take must be viewed from the customer’s point of view. And it sounds like you did a great job with this client!

4. Good work: Kind of a no-brainer! But all of the positive moments of truth in the world won’t help if the job quality isn’t there!

5. Hopefully a trusted "friend in the business": Yep, people want to trust you. This is where a sincere interest and high moral ethics come into play, Happy. I tell every one of my SFS students that if you just plain don’t like working with people then look for a different career! Success as a carpet cleaner is all about building professional relationships.

But hey, sounds like you met all five points above and made a cheerleader in the process. This stuff ain't rocket science...

P.S. I'm proud of you for not caving in on the price, Happy. But since this column is called “Ask Steve,” and only since you mentioned it, let me share a thought. I personally didn’t like showing up on a job without at least giving the customer a general ball park price. Nobody likes to be surprised. So even when a first-time customer just says, “Just come on out and clean it,” I would at the very least e-mail them my price list before I came out to do the work.

 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! 

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