Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Combating the CFH

May 10, 2005
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The professional cleaner reads a number of articles and tutorials on the various ways to tackle spots, stains, and other pitfalls indigenous to our industry.

But there is one problem you rarely hear about or get advice on how to handle. I've now logged 23 years in the carpet care business, and I've had my fair share of this ever-present, lurking scourge. First, let's identify this potential headache known as CFH: The Customer From Hell.

It can come in either sex. It has no particular age, and it isn't always immediately identifiable. Like any other carpet-cleaning-related problem, it can 'wick up' well after the cleaning job. Any home can have one or more, hence every job holds the potential of an encounter, but in most cases it can be treated and, in some situations, identified early enough to remedy it before it can become a serious problem.

Some early warning signs to watch out for:

  • "Are you insured in case you ruin my carpets?"
  • "I've had my carpets cleaned many times and have never been happy."
  • "Do you guarantee you'll remove all my stains?"

    When you encounter any of these questions during the initial phone call, you may have a CFH. You still have options at this point. You can either run from the problem or treat it. And yes, they are indeed treatable. My particular prescription to combat these symptoms consists of:

  • "Yes, we are insured, as any legitimate home service should be, though I've been paying the insurance company for two decades and I've never had to contact them for anything. Sometimes I feel like they should rebate me something, eh?"
  • "You haven't used us yet. I can supply you with references if it will ease your mind. I can also tell you that our work is guaranteed. Not happy? We'll make you happy and if we still can't, there's no charge."
  • "Well, while I haven't inspected your carpeting yet, I can answer that question this way: No, but I can guarantee that if they are removable, I'll get them out, and if we can't, no one else can either."

    Now remember, these are early warning signs that, if you're lucky enough to recognize them up front, can save you a world of hurt. Unfortunately, in many environments the CFH is a stealthy and unpredictable creature, camouflaged under a shiny veneer of pleasantness and pearly whites, only revealing its true nature once you are on the job. Watch for signs along the lines of:

  • The client following you from room to room pointing out spots you and your 20/20 vision just can't seem to see.
  • The client pointing out a room in which literally every square foot has a stain and then saying to you, "They should all come out."
  • You walk in and find all the furniture in the den moved to the center of the room.

    However, do not despair; you still have options. I suggest the following defense:

    "Madam, I've pre-conditioned the entire room and would appreciate it if you don't walk on it before I can clean it. I'll let you inspect everything before I leave, and will happily re-do any areas you may not be happy with."

    If that doesn't quell the beast, give another workout to the tried and true, "All I can tell you is that if the spots and stains are removable, I'll take them with me when I leave."

    The CFH with the interior decorating disorder can and should be deflected by mailing out a client prep sheet prior to the job, in which you detail the items you will move and those you will not. I always inform clients to just remove breakables and leave furniture where it is, as it makes it easier to identify traffic patterns.

    Certainly, a CFH can make itself known days after the completion of a job you thought went just fine. There are no options here, and not too much you can do, except to return to the home and re-do any areas of concern.

    The CFH is a Stuart Scott tagline: you can't stop it, you can only hope to contain it. And like any other problem, the best remedy is experience.

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