ICS Magazine

The Advantages of Visiting the Site

July 12, 2002
I recently went on a couple of estimates that reminded me why I prefer to make a site visit for any job before I schedule or price it.

I actually call them "price quotes," since I give the customer a total price down to the penny, not just an "estimate." But the choice is up to you. The site visit is something I've done since the days of my first carpet cleaning class in Manitowoc, Wis. It provides me with the opportunity to sit down with the customer and discuss what I can do for them, what I cannot do, and how much it will cost. It also provides me with the opportunity to better predict the amount of time to allow for the job.

Variables
Some of the things to determine during the initial site visit include: the type of carpet fiber, the color, the degree of soiling and if any furniture will need to be removed and reset. This is also the time to establish a rapport with the customer, and to suggest extra services such as protector or furniture cleaning.

An especially important step to take here is to "precondition" the customer to establish realistic expectations for the job. A very diverse set of factors may enter into your success, or lack thereof, in meeting these expectations. Soil load, color, fiber type, style, mill treatments, cleaning agent limitations due to warranties and general health, carpet location and even economic considerations may affect the end result.

The initial site visit is the time to adjust your customer's expectations. This will go a long way toward reducing both callbacks and customer dissatisfaction with the cleaning results.

Actual Soil
Soil load and the nature of the soil, e.g. dry or oily, are certainly not something the cleaner will have much control over. But they will often dictate the cleaning processes necessary to achieve success. Questions like "How much pre-vacuuming is needed?" "Pre-spray and brush or power precondition?" "Truckmount or portable?" "Wet or dry?" will need to be answered. Additionally, the color of the carpet as it contrasts the color of the soils may influence cleaning frequency.

Different levels of actual soil present may range, for example, from a lightly soiled Berber to a lightly soiled saxony, or a moderately soiled saxony to a trashed, animal-soiled saxony. Each will require a specific cleaning process and demand a specific cleaning machine, from a portable to a truckmount with rotary action. The initial site visit is the time to make these determinations.

Apparent Soil
Looks like soiling, but isn't. Worse, it can't be corrected. Examples include conditions such as crushing/matting, pile reversal, shading and other fiber/yarn-related "problems" that cannot be corrected with cleaning. The time to determine this is prior to arriving with your equipment and helper in tow.

Furnishings
Some customers will want all the furniture removed and reset, while some will opt for "open area" cleaning only. This will influence the amount of time it takes to complete the job, as well as determine the need for a helper and protective devices such as tabs and blocks.

The size, weight and number of furnishings to be handled will vary from a few to many. I have been in living/dining rooms containing more legs than the Miss America Pageant. Being prepared with sliders, sofa lifters and other items will make any necessary furniture handling easier and faster.

Pricing
Pricing will be established during the initial visit. Remember, this is the time to introduce extra services such as furniture cleaning, hard-floor cleaning, protectors and more. This is your opportunity to establish a relationship with your potential customers and build their confidence in your ability to perform the work as required.

Scheduling
Some shoppers may demand an estimate in advance while some may resist the idea. When dealing with a potential client who does not want the estimate, I will generally put forth that "I would like to see your carpets and determine your needs, and give you the opportunity to meet me and determine if I am the type of person you want working in your home."

This approach will often convince them that they really do want the estimate, as well as allow you to get them on the books for a site visit at a time convenient to everyone.

Expenses
I hear many cleaners say on-site estimates cost too much. Perhaps the on-site estimate would be better viewed as an opportunity to maximize profits on each job, and to more efficiently manage the precious asset of time. After all, time is money!

Just a thought developed during 30 years of rug sucking. Try it, you'll like it! And remember, get it clean and get it dry. That's becoming a popular mantra today. Keep in mind that you heard it here first. 'Til next month, see ya!