ICS Magazine

Preconditioning Your Cleaning Client

December 4, 2000
As a professional cleaning or restoration specialist, everything you do must point toward one of these two primary goals—Making a Profit and Staying in Business.

When I ask a group of professional cleaning or restoration specialists to tell me the objective or goal of a cleaning job, most give me a strange look and answer “to get the dirt out” or “to restore the property to its pre-loss condition.” Well, this is certainly part of what we do, but it is not the ultimate goal or objective. Remember, there are really only two goals in business, to make a profit and to stay in business. Everything you do must point toward one of these two primary goals.

Making a profit is accomplished by providing your service or product at a price higher than cost. Staying in business requires a price that will generate repeat and referral business. In other words, your product and/or service must be perceived as a good value for the money. Good value is defined as exceeding the customer’s expectations.

To exceed the client’s expectations, it’s necessary to first know them and determine if the expectations are reasonable and within your capabilities. Ask yourself, “What is the client’s reason for hiring me?” There is usually a specific reason that prompted them to decide to have the work done at this time. Perhaps it was due to a specific spill or spot, or maybe an upcoming event. It’s imperative you identify this specific reason for calling; it’s often the key to understanding their expectations and ultimately your ability to meet or exceed them. For example, if the reason for cleaning is a specific spot, and you clean the entire house perfectly, except you are only able to slightly lighten that spot, then your client is not going to be happy. They may pay you (grudgingly) but are not likely to refer you to others or call you back another day. All they remember is that you did not get the spot out. On the other hand, if you get the spot out yet only do a “so-so” job on the rest of the house, you are a hero and will probably get referred to all her friends.

The key in avoiding this situation is in properly identifying the “reason” for the client’s call and “preconditioning” the client’s expectations to a level you will meet or exceed. If the specific cleaning reason is a spot, discuss the expectations of successful spot removal before starting the job. If you are not confident of the end result, then undersell so the customer expects the worst. Efforts to explain less-than-perfect results after the attempt are only viewed as excuses and are generally taken as a negative.

How you phrase your comments can be a big part of this preconditioning process. For example, if you are fairly confident that a spot will come out, but not absolutely certain, you could say, “It has been my experience that spots of this type generally respond well to our cleaning techniques.” This tells the customer that you have had positive experiences with this type of situation, while at the same time not making any promises of certain success. This same phrase can be turned around when the results are expected to be poor by saying, “It has been my experience that this type of spot does not generally respond well to standard cleaning techniques. I will use the full extent of my training and professional equipment, but caution you not to expect perfect results.” Now when the spot only comes out half way, the client is pleased because they weren’t expecting any improvement at all.

If you do nothing to adjust the client’s expectations, they often expect “like new” conditions. Not only will you fail to meet their expectations, you may even be asked to try again by re-doing the job. No profit and no continued business!

When you adjust the client’s expectations from absolute perfection down to reality, you are generally able to exceed them. When the client’s expectations are exceeded, they are glad to pay you and refer you to their friends, thus fulfilling your two goals of making a profit and staying in business.