"A woman never sees what we do for her. She only sees what we don't do."
- Georges Courteline
I like women. Always have. I like talking with them, spending time with them and, maybe most importantly, I enjoy working for women. I hope you do too. Why? Because, even in our politically correct social system, the woman in the house almost always gets stuck choosing and working with the carpet cleaner.
If the carpet cleaner does not understand the unique "Emotional Dynamics" of working with a woman in her home, he will echo the words of the Greek poet Aristophanes, written almost 2,500 years ago: "These impossible women! How do they get around us? We can't live with them...or without them."
In other words, if you are not comfortable working for a woman, life is going to be very difficult for both you and your customers.
Since the subject of gender relationships has befuddled the great thinkers of the world for thousands of years, I'm sure not going to take a stab at it now. But I will share some tips and techniques on working with and for the "fairer sex" discovered during 20 years of working down in the trenches cleaning carpets.
Most of the ideas below are based on one central premise: reducing the emotional discomfort and fear in your female customer. Make no mistake: any time you work in the residential environment for either a man or a woman homeowner, their overriding customer emotions are nervousness and apprehension. But when you add in the "fear factor" of having your male technicians working in the private sanctum, the home, of a female, the Emotional Dynamics can get pretty weird!
Personal hygiene is essential. Strong body odor is a negative "Moment of Truth" for any customer. But women have on average a much more acute sense of smell and a heightened awareness of the grooming of others. While you may never find technicians that could be models for "Esquire" magazine, you can insist on proper personal hygiene and set clear grooming standards (and one more reason to avoid hiring smokers if possible).
Be very aware of spatial relationships. Women are acutely conscious of their personal space. My rule for my technicians was, if you are close enough to reach out and touch her...you are too close! Technicians should also avoid looming over their female customer. Many times I would use the excuse of examining the carpet to drop to one knee and put myself lower than the customer as I was explaining a point. This is especially effective when the homeowner is seated.
Maintain a professional emotional distance. Personal space means much more than a physical measurement. It is always wrong to converse on intimate and personal topics with the customer, even when she initiates or pursues the conversation. At best, you have engaged in unprofessional behavior. At worst, your company may face a sexual harassment lawsuit, or your offending technician could get himself shot by an irate husband!
Reinforce a strict sexual harassment policy by insisting on respect for female customers and employees. This means no foul language, no dirty jokes, no pin-up photos or calendars, and displaying respect for women in both your employees' speech and actions. This includes prohibiting public discussion of your cleaning technicians' weird fantasies of female customers hitting on him. Give me a break! Your customers aren't stupid...or blind. Sexual harassment is not only against the law, it is immoral, unethical and just plain wrong.
Give the "Illusion of Control." Remember that when your company is working in the customer's home, she feels very much out of control. Now of course the homeowner does not want to control the job; if she did, she could have rented a Rug Doctor at the local hardware store and done the work herself. Instead, give your clients the "Illusion of Control." How? Ask permission whenever possible. For example, on arrival at the home park in the street, then ask the customer if you can park in their driveway. If you are going to test a spot during your pre-inspection, ask permission to do so first. You can't go wrong by giving the female customer as much control as possible.
Perform background checks on new employees. One major national franchise now runs ads proclaiming that their technicians undergo rigid background checks and that they do not use subcontractors. Why? Because their extensive market research shows that personal security is a big "hot button" with female customers. By performing background checks (and random drug testing) on all employees, you may also avoid ugly incidents leading to nasty litigation, not to mention having a clean conscience knowing you are sending the very best employees possible into your customer's home.
Send out two-man crews. There are many compelling arguments for using two people on a job. But one of the best reasons is that your female customer will feel infinitely more comfortable with two technicians on-site instead of feeling "trapped" in her home with one man working alone. Two technicians working together also provide a witness in the unfortunate event of a false accusation against your company.
If you can't beat them, join them. Instead of jumping through hoops trying to allay the insecurity of a single male tech dealing with a female homeowner, why not hire female technicians? Even the most dedicated feminist will grudgingly admit that men's upper body strength is greater than most women. But with today's improved scrub-wand technology, and especially rotary extraction, women can easily perform most carpet cleaning tasks.
Dealing with the fairer sex has always been a challenge for men. (I should know. Sioux and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage in June!) The Emotional Dynamics get even stranger when your technicians (mostly male) work with your customers (mostly female) in their homes. But if you incorporate the above ideas into your daily work procedures, more and more women will become "Cheerleaders" for your company. And the more Cheerleaders you create, the faster true success will be yours!