When discussing carpet-cleaning procedures as they relate to customer service, we need to understand the psychological perspective of the customer.
When discussing carpet-cleaning procedures as they relate to customer service, we need to understand the psychological perspective of the customer, and work to improve that perspective by projecting a positive image and providing the highest level of customer service.
The image of the carpet-cleaning industry is typically a blue-collar and labor-oriented one. Carpet-cleaning services are most often marketed with an emphasis on selling price and equipment. The problem with this is the customer feels she is purchasing labor instead of knowledge, experience and technical skills.
We can upgrade this image by changing the focus with education-based marketing. Cleaning is a science based on education and technical skills. The customer must be made to understand that what we sell and what they are actually purchasing is knowledge combined with technical expertise and certification. We are a technical industry.
In order for a textile-cleaning company to present a professional image to customers, we need to begin with appearance and presentation skills. In addition to possessing and education and an understanding of current cleaning technologies, a textile-cleaning company must understand and implement the following principles:
- Your appearance should exhibit honor, pride, integrity and high moral character. When providing technical services, it is essential to strive for an above-average look.
- Uniforms need to be of the highest quality. Include IICRC certifications, training certifications and trade association emblems on the uniform in an appropriate fashion. It is very important to display your certification credentials to the customer.
- Technicians must be trained in not only the technical aspect of the business, they also need presentation skills – how they interact with the customer and how to provide the “ultimate cleaning experience” in a competitive marketplace.
- Certification and high-quality uniforms send a very important message to the customer: this technician is educated and knows what they are doing. This immediately establishes value and credibility; this is an individual who deserves to be paid well for his knowledge and expertise.
Remember the old adage about first impressions? First impressions are key to your success. Company vehicles and equipment must be spotless, and good grooming and neat uniforms are essential. Additionally, it is critical for the professional carpet-cleaning company to adhere to industry standards, assuring the customer of a high-quality cleaning experience by a true, caring professional.
In addition to image and presentation skills, the following job procedures and applications will help develop the killer type of customer service we are all searching for. Make your service not just a “cleaning job,” but an actual cleaning experience. Develop the techniques and skills that put your customer at ease, exhibit extreme value and build intense customer loyalty. You can improve your company’s level of service by adding just a few of these ideas.
- Prior to a customer’s appointment, a pre-appointment letter or e-mail should be sent confirming the date, time and type of service to be performed. The letter should also contain information about the cleaning process; ask that all small, delicate items be put away for safekeeping, give details on furniture moving, what can and cannot be moved, etc. Thank the customer for choosing your company.
- Technicians should knock on the door, step back several feet, smile and look happy. “Hello, it’s very nice to meet you…”
- Bring your own mats with your company logo printed on them. Place mats on the inside and outside of the home. Establish professionalism.
- Technicians should always put on shoe covers prior to entering the home.
- Establish a clear understanding of price and services to be performed by reviewing your company’s “service information guide.” The guide should include details of the service the technician will be performing, as well as price structure (i.e., package selling).
- Begin the walk-through process and pre-inspection. Seek the customer’s permission to perform several tests. Explain to the customer that the tests will evaluate fiber type as well as meet the manufacturer’s requirements for cleaning. Pre-inspection is key to successful cleaning.
- Explain to customer how you will protect walls and molding by using corner guards and use quick-connect wraps to prevent scratching and damage to hard surfaces.
- Further establish your credibility by applying fiber identification skills, such as burn or chemical testing.
- During the walk-through, use a high-intensity light to illuminate shadows and expose hidden stains covered by dirt.
- Test spots before cleaning. Advise the customer of any stain that may be permanent. Explain that every attempt will be made to correct the situation using special spotting techniques.
- If there are permanent stains, provide customer-education pamphlets that explain why the stain cannot be removed by cleaning. You can obtain this information from your local trade association or distributor.
- Learn to use a microscope to analyze stains.
- Know how to evaluate carpet backing. Examine the carpet backing before cleaning for proper product selection and proper identification. We must know what type of fiber we are cleaning; this does wonders for the credibility for the technician.
- Check the pH of the carpet before and after cleaning. There are pH pens available to perform this test. Be sure that you have tested and cleaned to the highest industry standards. This is a real value and credibility booster.
- Learn to write a proper pre-inspection report and use invoice psychology to create a very technical image, one that commands respect and exhibits value based on education, not just price.
- Place “caution” signs in the front entrance in addition to all areas where hoses cross hard surfaces. Advise the customer to be extra careful walking from damp carpet to hard floors, as they may be slippery.
- Whatever you do, always pre-vacuum using a HEPA filtration vacuum.
- Prior to the pre-spray application, have the customer approve the fragrance of the pre-spray. Does the customer like the smell, or do they find your choice of product offensive?
- After pre-spray application, agitate with a carpet groomer.
- Always connect the vacuum line to wand before starting equipment. An unattended vacuum line is a safety hazard.
- Never spray or use solvents in a customer’s home without authorization. Solvents may aggravate many medical conditions, chemical sensitivities, etc.
- When solvents are used, provide mechanical ventilation to increase airflow; use ceiling fans and open the windows.
- Learn hand-spotting techniques. Show that extra effort. Use white towels and a tamping brush to pre-treat stains.
- Never clean carpets without neutralizer. This is a must for a professional cleaning job. Ideally, the carpet should be a neutral pH after cleaning.
- Wear a belt clip to hold a white towel. Do not move furniture with your hands. Exhibit the ultimate in pride and respect and move furniture with the towel between your hand and the object being moved.
- Always place protective blocks or tabs under furniture left on damp carpet.
- Wipe baseboards.
- Use air movers to provide proper ventilation and faster drying. The more equipment and different processes the technician performs, the more technical the job appears, resulting in a happier client and a more profitable company. Not to mention a cleaner and healthier carpet.
- Groom the carpet after extraction is completed. This will help the carpet dry faster and remove footprints.
- Leave several pairs of shoe covers for customer use, and a bottle of spotter with your company name and contact information professionally imprinted.
- Provide the customer with after-care instructions and a written service guarantee.
- Leave a self-addressed customer survey card to rate your performance. This creates the image of value, pride and honesty in the customer’s mind.
- Leave information pamphlet on IICRC certification and why it is so important for your customer to choose certified technicians for their textile cleaning needs.
- Prior to presentation of your invoice, walk through the house and ask the customer if they are satisfied and happy with the work.
It is critical for professional carpet-cleaning technicians to learn technical skills, to know what is going on in the industry and to develop business skills by attending trade shows and related conventions. By educating yourself you can educate your customer. Retailer Syms Corp.– said it best: “Our best consumer is an educated customer.” All of your training, knowledge and technical expertise will pay off in the end. Your customer will appreciate your service as a professional one. Perhaps then the psychological perspective of a blue-collar, labor-oriented job will be changed to one of an educated, technically skilled profession. (Author’s Note:
This article is dedicated to the memory of a great educator and special person, Bob Wittkamp.)