Gotcha! Avoiding the Carpet Cleaning "Commodity" Trap

July 22, 2010
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Good old Wikipedia defines a commodity as“a good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. It is fungible, i.e. the same no matter who produces it....



Good old Wikipedia defines a commodity as “a good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. It is fungible, i.e. the same no matter who produces it. Examples are petroleum, notebook paper, milk or copper.”

Since consumers view any of these commodities as being “all the same,” they will switch providers in a heart beat just to save a few cents. Think about the last time you filled your car with gas. Ultimately, the only buying decision in choosing a commodity is “Which supplier has the lowest price?”

Far too many American consumers view carpet cleaning as just another “commodity.” The average homeowner feels the only way to choose a carpet cleaner is by going with the lowest price. Who should we blame for this sad state of affairs?

As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy – and he is us!” Over the last fifty years as an industry, we have spent billions marketing the fact that carpet cleaning is a commodity that should be chosen based on who is advertising the lowest price.

Your carpet cleaning services should be the very opposite of a commodity. You want loyal clients who could care less what your competitors are charging. Even better, you crave delighted “Cheerleader” customers that will be highly effective “unpaid salespeople” for your cleaning services.

So how can you get out of this common “carpet cleaning as a commodity” trap? By convincing homeowners that your company is oh-so-very-different from the herd of mediocre, couldn’t-care-less carpet cleaners out there.

In other words, you must differentiate yourself with “Gotchas”! A Gotcha is any moment where the client realizes (usually subconsciously) that, “I like/trust/am impressed with this individual and this company!” Remember that 80 percent of how the customer decides if it is a good or a bad carpet cleaning is based on the relationship they have with the person performing the service.

This unanticipated happy surprise (“I can’t believe I found a good carpet cleaner!”) will inevitably create a Cheerleader out of your client. That’s right, now you got ‘em!

Of course, a savvy carpet cleaner won’t just include one Gotcha in his service routine. Different Gotchas will appeal to different people, plus you can’t have too many Gotchas built up in the mind and heart of your customer. In fact, bank away enough Gotchas with your client and almost inevitably they will morph into a delighted Cheerleader for you!

Gotchas can be divided based upon the service technician’s attitude, appearance and most importantly by his or her actions. Why not see how many of these Gotchas you can script into your daily company routine?

Attitude

Absolutely the cheapest, and yet most complex, Gotchas are crafted from the attitude of the person performing the work in the customer’s home. Sadly, the average carpet cleaner’s demeanor reflects that of someone being trundled to a date with the guillotine. It has been well said, “Hire the smile!” And so it is.

Constantly be searching for energized, happy employees to share your vision of great customer service. With the right people, business is fun, exciting and a daily joy, both for you and your customers.

Appearance

Sure, your clients don’t expect your carpet cleaning technicians to look like they stepped off the pages of GQ. But still, personal appearance/hygiene is a powerful positive or negative Moment of Truth.

Look, really look, at yourself and your employees through your client’s eyes. Sure, you have the right to groom and dress yourself as you please. But your customer deserves to feel good about who they are inviting into their home. If they are uneasy about the appearance of your workers, you won’t get a second chance.

Actions

How you and your people act in the home is where you can make some big Gotchas. Your goal is to consistently program these actions into every single “stage play” that you produce in the customer’s home. When you first arrive…

Park in the street. After introducing yourself to the customer, ask permission to pull your van in to their driveway. Make sure your van/truck mount doesn’t leak oil on that pristine white concrete! Then… Make friends before you start cleaning. Carry dog biscuits and ask the customer if you can give their dog a special treat. I know it is weird, but dog owners are convinced that anyone who loves pets will also do a great job cleaning their carpets!

You should also prepare “kiddy bags” and ask the parent if you can give their children a gift.(Kiddy bags can include small coloring books, crayons, stickers, etc. You will create even more Gotchas when you…

Show an “attitude of care and concern” in the customer’s home. Before ever stepping into the client’s home, put down a clean door mat to wipe your shoes on or use disposable shoe covers. Then, before cleaning, set up plastic corner guards which will both save you repainting a lot of drywall and, even more importantly, create a Gotcha by showing the customer “I care.” Always wipe dry hard-floor transition areas and leave cotton bath mats – or use paper runners – for customers to dry their shoes.

Now, one of your best Gotchas will be to…

Take “Immediate Action” during your initial walk through. When your customer shows you an “area of concern” (never call it a “problem”) always do something! Make a note on their work order, mark the area with a brightly colored poker chip or, my personal favorite, ask the customer if you can “test” the spot with some “lifetime spotter” and a clean white towel.

After you have left a beautiful clean contrast in the carpet, you should…

Give the customer their very own bottle. This “lifetime spotter” concept was the single best marketing idea I ever came up with. My young family had “spotter filling parties” around our kitchen table, but you don’t have to! Several companies now offer this concept and even include free custom logo labeling.

Create even more Gotchas by remembering to …

Sell the sizzle, not the steak. Add some fun and dazzle to the actual cleaning. For example, a clear view filter connected to your vacuum hose will provide a wonderful “moving picture show” of the dirt coming out of the carpet.

Another great Gotcha is, right at the start of the job, clean a small “magic square” in the dirtiest part of the carpet. Then you can get started on the less soiled areas, leaving her to marvel at the contrast of the magic square. Gotcha! And the Gotchas don’t stop after you leave the home…

Keep on reaching out. Make another great Gotcha the day after the cleaning by doing a quality check phone call to make sure that “everything was perfect.” Be sure to ask the customer if you can make a brief call to her at work. Then get her cell phone number so you won’t tie up her work line.)

Continue the Gotchas and keep your name in front of the client by sending them a regular newsletter. Several suppliers will provide a turnkey newsletter and even print it and mail it for you.

And now, for the very best Gotcha of all…

Raise your prices. Weird but true. There is a substantial part of the population – including your target market of high-end homeowners – who feel that a higher priced carpet cleaner will automatically provide better quality. This is especially so if you come pre-referred by a Cheerleader.

If you can consistently create the Gotchas listed above, you will make Cheerleaders in droves who, in turn, will passionately sell your services to all of their coworkers, neighbors and friends. So why not cash in by charging more and then share your wealth with your family, employees and, of course, your friendly carpet cleaning distributor!

Sounds good to me!

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