ICS Magazine

Training in Chemicals for Dealers

June 9, 2005

Most carpet cleaners rely heavily on their local dealer to provide technical information for equipment and chemical applications. Unfortunately, many dealers have incomplete knowledge about the products that they sell.

When an employee at the sales counter fails to provide accurate or complete information, the company's image suffers. This problem can be eliminated when that first contact between customer and dealer immediately produces the right answers. The bottom line is that dealers and their employees need to have an improved understanding of the products they sell in order to maximize their business success.

The myriad of manufacturers and different cleaning products available has led to considerable confusion as to which product to use in a given situation. Simple questions, such as what works and what doesn't work, have been left unanswered. As a part of new marketing programs and efforts to reinforce distributor relationships, one manufacturer recently introduced chemical classes to provide distributors and their employees with the full benefits of formal chemical training.

Product spec sheets were simply not found to be an effective means of disseminating the information and a more hands-on approach was needed. Group discussions, instruction in chemistry basics, and visual presentations are required to educate and bring understanding. It was realized that even dealers who have good product knowledge could benefit from the new training, the reinforcement and affirmation.

The training classes focus on teaching specific basics to train personnel to understand the product's usage and full functionality. An important point obviously, because if you understand the benefits of the product - the "how" and the "why" - you have a better chance of selling the product to the customer. This training approach works just as well for equipment as it does for chemicals.

Economics also play an important role in the training curriculum. Research data shows that many carpet cleaners cut costs and their prices to get that cleaning job. Often, the only thing they cut is their own throat. If the cleaner doesn't charge enough to realize a decent profit, the resulting workmanship can result in lower customer satisfaction, doing jobs over again, and poor equipment handling. The training class shows dealers how to guide their customers to the "quality" product that will save them money (and business) in the long run.

Basic chemical concepts and cleaning fundamentals are reinforced during the training class. Build sales by investing in these basics:

Dilutions: Dilution ratios are important and usually justify the cost of higher quality products. Make sure your customer understands ratios and the use of concentrated products versus diluted or ready-to-use products.

pH: Ah, yes! The issue of pH leaves many scratching their heads. Old hat? Maybe, but well worth revisiting, and the classes clear it all up.

Cleaning: What do we mean by cleaning, and how does it really occur? Correctly presented, the definition of cleaning can open a whole new world to your customer, including teaching techniques from water softening to making water "wetter."

A process I label as "natural magic" is the ability to remove greasy soil substances from fibers and fabrics. It's exciting to know that the process for soil removal, though intricate, is still as simple as Mother Nature intended it to be, and it can still be environmentally safe. Cleaning and removal of soils is the heart of the carpet-cleaning process.

Pre-spraying: An important part of two-step cleaning, containing two of the four elements of TACT - time, agitation, chemical action, and temperature. The bottom line is communicating the need for this cleaning approach to your customers. This technique is especially effective to remove locked-in, stubborn soils from fibers. It is important to match the correct chemicals and cleaning techniques to the job at hand and the prevailing soil conditions.

Ingredients: Defining their importance in cleaning, and the different types available to the formulator, requires a definite understanding of how ingredients are used, and how surfactants differ from each other. Surfactants allow the product to penetrate and remove soil and stains.

Rinse Application: Is using a "rinse" really as helpful as claimed? Ten years ago, my good friend Lee Pemberton introduced this concept that has become the industry standard. Anyone who knows about carpet cleaning recognizes its benefits. Some recent "White Paper" reports have negated certain aspects of acid rinses. While these reports may look good on the academic level, in the real world I have found that using an acidic rinse simply works. Scientific rationale has its place, but down-to-earth product functionality is what keeps us in business. Millions of carpets have benefited by rinse application, and the technique has increased the effectiveness of hot-water extraction cleaning.

One area to keep a close eye on is the ability to determine precisely the quantity of soil being removed from a carpet. New techniques are being used by top testing laboratories to validate improvements in new equipment, methods and chemicals. Imagine how this will help to identify the attributes and benefits of a formulated cleaning product. And imagine the leg-up you'll have if you're able to correctly explain these new procedures to your customers. The proof may be in the pudding, but the truth is in the training.