ICS Magazine

Cultivating a Repeat and Referral Cleaning Business

March 8, 2001
Don’t take your repeat customers for granted. Maximize our industry’s number one source of business.

One of the latest trends in evaluating potential business is to consider the lifetime value of a customer. This refers to not only the amount of business a customer has brought to your business, but also the potential future business as well. There are two ways any given customer can represent future business.

First, they can call you again and purchase a repeat of previous services or schedule additional services.

Second, a satisfied customer will often refer friends and relatives. When you add these referrals up over the years, the total gives you a healthy respect for the true value of each and every customer.

The effect is like a pyramid—every happy customer refers three or four new customers, who in turn refer three or four new customers, and so on. In fact, most business owners who have been successful in the service business for more than five years consistently attribute more than 90% of their gross volume to the repeat and referral program.

Since it represents such a major portion of business income and stability, it’s important that you have a deliberate part of your business plan specifically designed to cater to this repeat and referral trade. There are three main parts to this type of plan: customer satisfaction, customer appreciation, and customer follow through.

Customer Satisfaction

First and foremost, the success of any repeat and referral program hinges on the complete satisfaction of each and every customer. As one successful cleaner I know in Northern California puts it, “the customers need to be satisfied beyond their wildest expectations.” You should base your program on a policy of 100% customer satisfaction…no excuses. This means high quality, consistent service at a fair price (not necessarily a low price). It also means having a “no questions asked” complaint or reservice policy for the few times there might be a problem.

While a happy customer will generally tell three or four other people about your service, an unhappy customer may tell as many as a dozen about their unpleasant experience. Remember, our goal is to get the customer to feel good enough about our service to not only call you again, but to recommend you to their mother. Don’t forget to let them know that referrals are appreciated.

Customer Appreciation

Give your customer reasons beyond mere satisfaction to refer you to others. If or when the referral happens, drop a thank you note or phone call to the referring customer thanking them and promising to take good care of their friend or relative. This acknowledgement and show of appreciation will often result in even more referrals. Some companies even offer a small incentive to customers that refer business to them, such as a small discount on future work.

Customer Follow Through

A good follow through program is how you maintain the “repeat” portion of the Repeat and Referral Plan. Regular customer contact through reminder notices, newsletters, or direct mail keeps your name in front of them. Other ways of maintaining customer contact might include spotting chemical with free refills, emergency “fresh spill cleanup” services, or other special preferred customer contact. In short, follow the axiom, “never forget a customer, and never let a customer forget you.”

By implementing a repeat and referral plan, you can increase the lifetime value of all your customers and build a solid business foundation. Another way of looking at this is that you are trying to change the “customer ”into a “client.” The key to this relationship is to continue and extend beyond just the buying and selling of a specific service or product. True success in this business is dependent upon relationships built through quality service, integrity, and reliability. Always keep focused on the “big picture” and remember the lifetime value of a client is more than just the amount of money they are spending today.