ICS Magazine

Making Life a Little Easier

November 6, 2001


"The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing."
- Marcus Aurelius

"There is no hope of joy except in human relationships."
- Saint-Exup?

I live in the Dominican Republic. People in this impoverished Third World Spanish country have a concise and graphic description of life today. "La vida no es facil." (Life is not easy.) The standard reply is, "No es facil," and both individuals mournfully nod their heads in agreement.

And so it is. Life today is not easy and shows little signs of improving, no matter where you live. I write this on Sept. 15 and while much will have occurred between my ICS Cleaning Specialist deadline and your reading of this column, there is little doubt that the world as we know it has changed forever ... and not for the better.

Worldwide, there is little individuals can do to make life better or "easier." And yet, each of us can make a difference. Psychologists refer to a "Circle of Influence," the fact that each day we influence the feelings of hundreds of people for good or bad. (The hidden bonus here is that when we make someone else feel good, we feel good too.)

Interesting how the word "feelings" crops up more and more in business. Frankly speaking, no one will be successful in this industry (or life itself) if they refuse to work with the emotions of others. After all, 80 percent of how a homeowner decides if the carpets are clean or not stems from their relationship with the person performing the work. And it's not just customers. Employees stay with you long term (or leave) based on how they feel about you and others in the company. And certainly you too deserve to "feel good" about your business and your life.

For the last six months, To Your Success has focused on the "Carpet Cleaning Triangle," which is composed of the relationships between the customer, your employee and you as the owner/manager. Sadly, for most carpet cleaners, this "triangle" is a daily "Cold War" where all three sides live in "Mutual Fear." You can change that by "making life a little easier" by focusing on the feelings and emotions of everyone involved.

Customer - Primary emotion? Fear.
Homeowners instinctively shy away from allowing strangers into their homes, a tendency aggravated by the horror stories about carpet cleaners. How do you allay your customer's fears?

* Look at your company. Would you want your employees working in your home? If not, why do you expect your customers to open their homes to you?
* Build systems to routinely create customers who sing your praises to everyone they meet. The best antidote against customer fear is an enthusiastic recommendation from a previous client.
* Train and motivate your employees to build relationships with their customers. Most technicians view their job as just "rug-sucking." It isn't.
* Focus on the appearance of every little thing in your operation. Trucks, equipment, uniforms, technician grooming, office, company advertising, you. Everything should reflect your desired professional image.

Technician - Primary emotion? Fear!
Most of our employees are in "foreign territory" in the customer's home. Technicians are acutely aware that a client is likely older, wealthier and holds a great deal of power over them. How can you increase your technician's confidence level?

* Orientation. Most techs don't realize that the customer is infinitely more nervous about them than they are about the customer. Your employees should understand that their "Desired End Product" is not clean carpets. The goal of every job must be to leave a delighted Cheerleader-customer.
* Training. Sadly, many entry-level employees have no clue on how to build a relationship with their average customer. You must train your workers even in the basic social courtesies that most of us take for granted.
* Systems. Written systems build on and sustain training. Systems should not just promote efficient production, they must carry the customer along an "assembly line" of pre-programmed "positive moments of truth."
* Equipment. Buy the very best, then maintain it well. Machine breakdowns create incredible stress for employees. Make your employee's day as easy as possible.

You - Primary emotion? Fear!
You are under incredible pressure. Be honest now. Don't you sometimes dread hearing the phone ring? How can you rid yourself of this life destroying fear?

Focus on the "why." Your fears are all based on the other two points of the Carpet Cleaning Triangle - your customers and employees. No one enjoys a fight. Yet, both customers and employees are increasingly adversarial. Why? Because they both are scared, too. Cut the "fear factor" down with the suggestions above and your emotional business life will improve immeasurably.

As individuals we cannot stop the pain and suffering the world is enduring right now. But you can make life a little easier for everyone (including yourself) in the Carpet Cleaning Triangle by adding "good feelings" to the great work you have always done.