- THE MAGAZINE
“We are in the midst of a Cold War which is getting warmer.”
-Bernard Baruch (1948)
I always loved cleaning carpets. After all, what’s not to like? I made more money than I ever dreamed of, had complete freedom and loved “putting on a show” with the carpets magically turning from filthy to clean! However, once I put on my “Customer’s Eyeglasses,” I realized that homeowners at best viewed their carpet cleaning as a tolerated irritation (and this even after enjoying my sparkling personality!).
Last month we examined the emotions of a homeowner waiting for a carpet cleaning company to show up for the first time. It wasn’t a pretty picture. We learned that customers are suspicious, resigned, vulnerable, frightened and at times downright hostile. When I focused my technician’s in-the-home procedures on soothing these negative homeowner emotions my customers became delighted Cheerleaders and our profits soared!
How can your employees calm the waiting homeowner’s trepidation and unwarranted fears? Fight fire with fire. For every negative feeling your customer is enduring, you must counter it with a positive emotion created by carefully plotted out actions on your technician’s part (I’m assuming this is a first-time customer. If a repeat client is still frightened of you after doing business with your company, you have serious problems!).
For example, when your customer is feeling:
Suspicious, the countering emotion is trust. Remember, the best trust is earned before your technician ever meets the homeowner. The best trust-building tactic? When your prospect receives a glowing recommendation from one of your delighted clients!
Another extremely reassuring Moment of Truth is when a warm, knowledgeable and caring individual answers your customer’s initial inquiry call. The trust battle should hopefully be at least partly won before your service van ever pulls up to the customer’s home.
Resigned, the countering emotion is easy. Customer’s view carpet cleaning as a big hassle, because it is. So make your company easy to do business with. Do you offer weekend and evening appointments? Even better, if you have won the trust battle, your customer very likely may let you clean the home without them being present. Now that is easy.
Give customers the option of “open-area cleaning,” thereby avoiding the need for them to move anything. Never say, “You’ll have to vacuum the carpets”; the customer doesn’t “have to” do anything! Instead, include (and charge for) pre-vacuuming as part of the service. And of course, above all else, get those carpets dry fast; homeowners hate the inconvenience of damp carpets.
Train your employees to respect the personal space of others. A simple rule on physical space is if you are close enough to reach out and touch the customer, you are too close. Another hint for your male technicians is to not loom over the customer, especially if she is sitting down. Get on her level by dropping to one knee when talking with her. Sometimes I would get myself lower than the client by using the excuse of feeling the carpet as we talked.
Don’t overlook the impact grooming and attire can have on the vulnerability issue. All employees should wear crisp, clean uniforms with clearly visible photo ID tags attached. Grooming? It’s simple. Just look at your technicians through the eyes of your typical customer. Do you feel uneasy? Or even better, how would you feel about a given employee cleaning your carpets in your home? If you feel a little queasy about your wife being alone in your home with a certain technician then why would you even consider inflicting this individual on your unsuspecting customer?
Frightened, the countering emotion is calm. Remember, these negative customer emotions are not about you. After all, this first time customer hasn’t even met you or your technician. Instead, her fears are based on the public’s prevailing general perception of our industry. Let’s face it head on. It isn’t a pretty picture. If your prospect hasn’t endured a carpet-cleaning nightmare in the past, she certainly knows friends who have! So you must immediately counter this fear with the calming effect of “Quiet Competence.”
Now, if you are a) experienced in the industry and b) close to the age of your typical customer, this air of Quiet Competence may be easy to deliver. But it all falls apart emotionally when you send in a technician who has nothing in common with the homeowner, and who also is scared to death. The result? The proverbial Home Front Cold War based on mutual fear of the other person.
Since you can’t change your customer’s pre-cleaning jitters you must work with the attitude and actions of your technicians. Review this series of articles with them on the Emotional Dynamics found on the Home Front. Explain that 80 percent of how the customer will decide if they did a good job or a bad job will be based on how the client feels about the technician actually doing the work. Then give your employees the tools to build a relationship with the homeowner with a step-by-step script to follow in the home focused on giving this all-important impression of Quiet Competence.
Hostile. The countering emotion? All of the above. When your customer feels suspicious, resigned, vulnerable, frightened and above all trapped in her home, then the famous “Fight or Flight” syndrome kicks in. Since the homeowner can’t run away (remember, she is waiting for this ominous technician to perform an unknown and intimidating process in her home) then she must be ready to fight; think how many times you have been greeted with a basically hostile customer demeanor at the front door before you ever said a word.
Sadly, all too often this “armed truce” degenerates into a “hot war” on the Home Front. However, if you build your company around the Emotional Dynamics of the Home Front, your clients will come to trust both you and your employees. While the homeowner may still have to tolerate the inevitable inconveniences of having their carpets cleaned, now both sides will live in peace and harmony. Even better, very likely your client will be so surprised at the wonderful service you have delivered that she will become a delighted Cheerleader – enthusiastically promoting your company to everyone she meets.