Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Defusing the Dreamer

May 18, 2006
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A simple pre-cleaning inspection may be all you need to re-adjust your client's thinking.

That badly abused Berber in the rental house should look like new, and the urine-soaked (cat? dog? who's to say?) furniture should look and smell great once you've worked your magic on them. Not! This is a cleaning wand, not a magic wand. What are you to do about these pipe dreams of our clients?

The only thing to do is to adjust the expectations of these dreamers. It may be best to start with a walk through of the cleaning site with the property owners to determine exactly the challenges awaiting our magical cleaning skills. This is the time to point out that the crushed or matted areas in front of sofas and chairs and the track-off areas where traffic from hard floors meets the carpet will look better after cleaning, but the signs will still be visible. Take the time to explain that, although our equipment and chemicals are state of the art, with water hot enough to boil an egg at 15 paces, the damage caused by abrasion, staining, atmospheric color change and urine will be improved, but not completely removed.

It may be of value to note permanent damage and/or color loss on your work order, with the client initialing the notes, especially the ones about "permanent" damage. Preston, a competitor and friend, once had a client in a water damage situation that wanted to know if the carpet would like new after drying was completed. His answer to her, delivered with respect, was, "Ma'am, the carpet is only new once."

The time for this initial inspection, and especially the part about permanent damage, is before you reach an agreement on price and settle on a date to perform the work. In dealing with the unrealistic clients, always keep in mind that what you tell them before you contract and perform the services is an explanation; what you tell after the services are complete is an excuse. The old adage "forewarned is forearmed" is certainly applicable in these situations. And as Judge Judy would counsel you: Get it in writing!!!

In all dealings with unrealistic clients, it is important to adjust their level of expectation to the level of improvement you can provide. Photos of "before" and "after" conditions may be of value if any third parties, such as insurance, small claims court, the BBB, media help lines, etc., are involved.

Keep in mind that you are the expert; it is your job to be able to differentiate between heavy soil and contamination, and permanent damage that will not be improved by your restoration or cleaning attempts. If you have a policy of performing an onsite evaluation of conditions prior to accepting the challenges the client is offering you, the onsite visit may well pay off in spades. Use the onsite inspection to determine if you want the job and/or if you want to deal with the prospective client. This is when you decide whether to hold ‘em or fold ‘em. If you decide to take the job it is now time to settle on a price. If you decide to "walk" on this one, explain to the client that you cannot meet their expectations and it may be best for them to shop for new carpets or upholstery. Better to waste a few minutes on the inspection than to waste hours on recalls trying to achieve an impossible level of correction.

I hope that these thoughts will keep you out of trouble in dealing with your unrealistic clients. Until next month, see ya!

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