The road to a successful repeat and referral business is littered with failures. I've been providing service to many of the same clients for more than 20 years, as well as to their offspring and friends, and I'd like to think that working by a certain set of rules has played at least a small part in this. The rules are simple, some so much so as to elicit a "well, duh," on more than one occasion, yet they are just as easily dismissed as being unimportant.
Do you smile a lot when conversing with your client? People want to feel comfortable with strangers in their home. After all, we aren't just in the service business; we are in the people business. Always look cheerful, even if you are dealing with Attila the Hun!
Do you always refer to your client as either "Mr." or "Mrs.," or do you feel that someone of equal or younger age rates their being called by their first name? In a client's home, always treat them with the utmost respect by using courtesy titles unless they insist on being called by their first name.
This next one should be a no-brainer but, based on conversations I've had with some of my clients regarding other contractors in their homes, it's not: Never smoke in the client's house. The health lectures will be reserved for the AMA, but you're a professional: you need to take it to your van and, more preferably, after you finish and leave the job site. Remember, even if you are cleaning a vacant house or store, the smell of tobacco will linger, and it can permeate the walls. Abstain at all costs. It's also strongly suggested that you don't bring any beverages or food you may have started on the way over into the home: finish them in the van or save them for the drive home.
When you are finishing up the scheduled areas on the ground floor, always ask permission before proceeding to the upstairs bedrooms: "We are finished here, Mrs. Jones. Is it okay to start on the upstairs rooms now?"
She already expects you to clean the upstairs bedrooms, so why ask? Because you never know if Mr. Jones is still in the shower or one of the children is dressing for school or work.
I know it is rare to find the cleaner who doesn't carry a cell phone these days, but how many of you keep it on while wanding? This is a big no-no. The client you are working for deserves your full attention. Ever see a cleaner working while conversing with either another client or his wife? It's just plain rude. If you must place a call, go out to your van. But when you are in the client's home, keep the phone off.
Before placing one furniture item on top of another, or when considering flipping dining room chairs over onto tables to get them off the floor, ask first. Also, never place small spotter bottles on end tables or other furniture. It's unsightly, unprofessional and they could leave rings.
Don't turn on ceiling fans without first asking permission. Some haven't been dusted since the Carter Administration, and after spending all that time making the carpet or sofa look just right, the last thing you need is a dust shower. We've been privy to the wonderful experience of flipping the switch and having the fan's light covers (glass, of course) come flying off due to improper installations. Don't let this happen on your watch.
This last suggestion may sound extreme, but I can tell you from my own childhood experience listening to my mother, as well as from what some clients have told me, that people do not like strangers using their bathrooms. Call it a phobia or whatever you like, but don't put them in that position. In short, hold it.
Follow the above "Do's and Don'ts" to the letter. Make your visit a memorable and pleasant one for your new customer, and that same customer will become a repeat client.