ICS Magazine

To Vacuum or Not to Vacuum - Part 2

January 1, 2007


Last month I mentioned how a carpet cleaner had decided to start checking his customer’s vacuum cleaner bags and belts as a value added service on every job. This has been extremely well received by his customers, who really appreciate that he cares so much about the maintenance of their carpet.

But it has also led to another phenomenon that many of you may have also experienced: at least two to three times a week people ask him for his opinion of their vacuum cleaner and what type of vacuum cleaner he recommends. Now, this opened up a whole new stream of income for this cleaner, because he knew about a company that sells high-quality HEPA filtration upright and canister vacuum cleaners to carpet cleaners so they can resell them to their customers. There are also cleaners who don’t want to sell vacuum cleaners, but who have seized a real opportunity by developing referral relationships with independent vacuum cleaner shops. When a customer asks about what vacuum they recommend, the cleaner offers some general suggestions and then refers them to the vacuum expert (along with a special coupon from the vacuum shop).

Having this relationship is also great when you inspect a customer’s vacuum cleaner and find that it needs repair. Now you have someplace to send your customer where they’ll get special treatment that makes you look even better. In return, the vacuum shop refers the carpet cleaner to its customers that ask about carpet cleaning. This can be a really excellent relationship resulting in a lot of business for both companies. You can even do shared advertising or cross-promotional activities.

This program works best with vacuum dealers that sell high-filtration, high-quality vacuum cleaners and really know what they’re doing. The good news is that this is the way most independents operate, since no vacuum shop can compete with the big box stores on “cheapo” vacuum cleaners. Even better, the quality of the vacuum cleaners at the indies is far superior to what will be found at the big boxes, further reinforcing your reputation as a quality company that really cares about your customers’ carpet.

But when you are in your customer’s home, how to start the ball rolling? The key is to use something strange looking and different that the consumer does not have available to them. It also has to be a high-quality HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration machine. I recommend a backpack vacuum cleaner set up with an air-driven power nozzle because, while a high quality backpack will do an excellent job removing dry soils (especially with the proper power nozzle), it is really a marketing tool, and the conversation that it stimulates is the most important reason for using it.

When you begin vacuuming, you’ll notice your customers looking at you as they never have before. Pay attention, because you are waiting for this moment. The customer will often help you by saying something like, “What is this, ‘Ghostbusters’?” Even if they don’t say anything, when they look at you using this strange vacuum cleaner, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to say something like, “Looks kind of funny, doesn’t it?”

Explain that you are performing dry soil extraction with a heavy-duty commercial vacuum cleaner in order to remove the deep-down, fiber-damaging dry soils from their carpeting before wet cleaning. Next, let them know that this vacuum cleaner has a true HEPA filter designed to capture the finest dirt as well as dust mite poop, pet dander, pollens and other allergens.

Tell them that it also removes the dead skin embedded in the carpet and upholstery. Say that most people don’t realize that the average person sheds about a gram and a half of skin every day, which is about the size of a dollar bill, and that this dead skin is what dust mites live on.

The next thing you do is say, “Let me show you.”

Take a black polyester napkin out of your pocket. Remove the wand from the backpack and hold the napkin over the hose. With the vacuum cleaner running, thoroughly vacuum about one square foot of the living room sofa. When you remove the napkin it will be filled with dead skin cells, dust, allergens and other crud that will appear as a white powder.

Most customers will stand there with their jaw hanging open in amazement. This gives you the opportunity to explain that not only is this dead skin in their furniture but also in their mattresses, in pieces so small that it goes right through their bedding and becomes embedded in the mattress, where it becomes food for dust mites. Let them know that dust mite poop contains a very potent allergen that may be responsible for as much as 25 percent of the world’s allergies!

Even if your customers don’t have allergies, repeated exposure to these allergens can cause them to eventually develop them. And this, you tell them, is why you not only clean carpets but why so many of your other customers have you clean their upholstery and mattresses.

You now have the perfect opportunity to do the same demo on one of their mattresses. You have broken the ice with the customer, and she is very likely to allow you into the bedroom to do the demo. The results on a mattress are almost always far more dramatic than the sofa.

Now, I have to warn you that many of the cleaners that are using this program are immediately confronted with a challenge. Half of their customers want the mattresses and upholstery cleaned on the spot. The cleaner is then faced with a challenge: either to hire a helper, put on another crew or allow more time for each job.

You will also discover how many of your customers have allergies and asthma. Once they know that you can help them, they often want extensive cleaning performed twice a yea,r and are eager to have you use the new cleaning and treatment products specifically designed for people with allergies or chemical sensitivities.

Because you can really relieve their symptoms, you become much more than a carpet cleaner. In fact, I frequently talk to cleaners that are using this system and they will probably be quite ticked off at me for this article. They don’t want any of their competitors to know how much money they are making from this simple approach. And it all started from a crazy vacuum cleaner! If you are going to use this system, make sure you get a high-quality, true HEPA vacuum cleaner that captures 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns. Don’t cut corners here!

If you are working for people with real health problems, be sure that you are using the proper vacuum cleaner that delivers what you promise instead of an “almost” HEPA vacuum cleaner. “Almost” only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and atom bombs!

Some vacuum cleaner manufacturers are even partners with the American Lung Association. If you use their vacuum cleaner, you can use this powerful logo in your advertising.

I have been promoting this system for cleaners around the country; give it a try and let me know the results.