ICS Magazine

Rising Above the Mediocre- Part II

March 14, 2006


"Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius."
-Fulton J. Sheen

There is nothing wrong with being average...except that no one wants to be average. Human beings are born with an innate desire to excel, to be "better than the rest." Of course, as the years pile on, many gradually come to the realization that this is "as good as it gets," and they slip into a vaguely discontented mediocrity.

However, you do not have to be "just another carpet cleaner" if you implement my "Six Secret Weapons for Success." Last month we discussed the first three:
1. Valued Added Service. "Managing the customer's experience to provide a consistently high level of perceived value and service." This is much more than a saying- it should become a business way of life. Focus on the relationship between your technician and your clients and how you can mold it both through training and scripted systems.
2. Economics 101. Simply put, people love to buy goods and absolutely hate the tolerated irritation of purchasing a service. So what you are selling, goods or services?
3. The Emotional Dynamics of the Home Front. When the service is performed in the customer's home the plot thickens considerably. Why? Because homeowners feel trapped, invaded and very, very vulnerable with strangers working in their "castle."

So now you at least are focused on both the challenges our industry faces and the solution: managing the experience the customer has with your company during their carpet-cleaning event. Easier said than done? Of course. But the last three Secret Weapons will help, especially...

4. Making the Cheerleader with Moments of Truth. Simply put, your client becomes a Cheerleader when they go out of their way to recommend your company to others. Think about it. Most of your customers (assuming you have done an adequate job) will give you a passive referral if asked. But Cheerleaders do much more. They aggressively market your company to everyone they meet, because you dramatically exceeded their baseline expectations.

This Cheerleader concept is so powerful that, when you make the Cheerleader, everything else takes care of itself. Sure, you absolutely should work your financials and do your job costing and stay on top of your receivables and have a solid marketing plan and make ongoing sales calls and manage your employees...and sooner or later, you will drop the ball. That's when all that free marketing done by your Cheerleaders steps up to the plate and keeps your profits flowing in.

Remember though, that value-added service manages your customer's experience. How? By focusing on routinely creating positive "Moments of Truth," which are any contact where the customer forms an opinion (usually subconscious) of your company. The typical carpet-cleaning job will have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of these fleeting moments, all of which get banked away in the homeowner's subconscious. Your job is to anticipate what your customer's baseline expectations are, and then program positive Moments of Truth that will dramatically exceed them. Simple? Yes. Easy? No way. However, there is hope. These moments are managed using a revolutionary business concept called...

5. The Service Circle, Your Cheerleader Assembly Line. Do you have Cheerleaders now? Of course you do. If you don't have even one Cheerleader (not even your mother?) you have a serious problem. But seriously, what percentage of your new customers become true, enthusiastic Cheerleaders? My guess is relatively few, because until now you and your employees have been making Cheerleaders by accident, such as when the technician doesn't mess up, the customer and the technician are same type of person, the tech is in a good mood and the moon is in the right phase and...you get the idea.

It is just so crazy. Developing Cheerleaders is the most important part of a carpet cleaning business and yet virtually everyone leaves it up to chance. What if instead of the current abysmal Cheerleader average of 1 percent to 2 percent, you could consistently make Cheerleaders out of 10 percent or 15 percent of your customers? Just imagine what it would do for your profits having all those "unpaid salespeople" singing your praises out there at no cost to you. You will consistently create Cheerleaders by designing and implementing a customized Moment of Truth Service Circle.

A Service Circle is the path that your typical customer takes in her transaction with your company. Your job is twofold. You must first anticipate your customer's unspoken questions that are screaming for answers, from "Will they do a good job?" to "Are you going to cheat me?" to "Am I safe being alone in my home with you?" (Personal security is a huge emotional dynamic in the transaction between the usually male technician and the usually female residential customer.)

Your second task is to guide and structure your employees' unspoken answers as they work in the home by inserting positive Moments of Truth in the Service Circle. Don't kid yourself. Your technicians are giving unspoken answers to your customers right now. These range from how your employees drive, walk, dress, look, interact with other employees and of course their attitude and actions with the homeowner. The problem is you have never organized any of these moments into a system. In addition, your business has many passive Moments of Truth, including your vehicles, equipment, office, advertising, etc. And don't forget that Moments of Truth can be either positive or negative.

Remember, Cheerleaders are made emotionally based on how the customer feels about the technician and the company. So right now, stop and analyze the emotions your first-time customer is feeling as she waits for the doorbell to ring. My guess is vulnerable, trapped, and very, very apprehensive. And your technician is scared too. The last relationship between two countries based on mutual fear was called the Cold War. And that is exactly what you have right now in your customers' homes - a Cold War.

So bring peace and comfort to your customers' hearts by programming positive Moments of Truth from their first contact with the company. For example, as you examine a Service Circle (see Chart 1), think how many positive Moments of Truth you could program into the initial conversation between a prospect and your phone employee. Now do the same for the pre-inspection of the carpets. Then reflect on how many moments you can script in for your technicians working in the customer's home. By now you should be well on your way to creating your Service Circle - a routine, organized, programmed system that makes Cheerleaders through pre-planned moments of truth!

If - and, honestly, it is a big if - you can successfully implement and institutionalize Secret Weapons No. 4 and No. 5, you will create a business you will love to run and be proud to own. In addition, this smoothly functioning Cheerleader machine will be incredibly profitable, not only now but also in the future when you decide to cash out. And that is exactly what we will discuss next month- Secret Weapon No. 6: Running Your Business Today to Sell It Tomorrow!