ICS Magazine

Your Vehicle: Another Tool in Your Arsenal

August 10, 2005

Over the years, there were indeed many facets of my cleaning business that I took great pride in. Certainly the quality of work we performed sits near the top of the list.

Customer service also ranks high. We took great pride in projecting ourselves as professionals and have always worn company uniforms.

One oft-neglected variable in the 'professional appearance' category are the vans and trucks that carpet cleaners drive. I used to receive comments such as, "Oh, you bought a new van since you were here last year," when, in fact, it was the same van, just a year older and a year prettier! Van maintenance is an overall approach, and should not be limited to just the engine.

I always kept the vans washed and waxed, the tires clean and shiny, and the interior as spotless as my living room. It is important to always keep in mind that your van - not you, not your tech, not your spit-shined shoes nor your fresh, crisp uniform - is usually the very first thing your new client sees as it pulls into their driveway. It need not be the newest model on the lot, but it should always be clean. People draw a lot from first impressions. After all, you have arrived to clean the carpets (or upholstery) in your client's home. If your van has mud caked on it from days of neglect, what does that say about you? At the end of every day, we always clean the interior (those Starbucks cups do accumulate) and hose down the van.

Keep It Stocked
In the course of a busy day, it's real easy to run out of a particular chemical or spotting agent and, if you don't use an end-of-day checklist, it's even easier to find yourself unprepared for the next day. Nothing like pre-inspecting a job with gobs of gum in the rug, assuring your client you'll remove it - "No problem!" - only to find yourself out of gum remover.

It's easy to avoid and, yes, I myself learned this the hard way.

The End-of-Day Checklist
Gas up for the following day. Don't wait till the next morning. You need to leave yourself enough time for other unanticipated problems like a tech's late arrival for work, getting lost on the way to the first job, etc. You shouldn't have to worry about an empty gas tank.

Inventory all equipment. This includes spray bottles, brushes, etc. You'd be surprised what you left at Mrs. Smith's that day. Without doing this every day, by the time you realize something is missing, it will be much harder to figure out where you left it.

Clean brushes and wand heads, and rinse out sprayers. Again, few things are as embarrassing as pulling out a pile-brush full of dog hair from the day before right in front of your client.

Clean filter bags. Dirty filter bags impede blower performance.

Flush waste tanks. Few things are as memorable as getting into a van the day after you cleaned up after Mrs. Smith's cats and didn't flush the tanks! Ahh, nothing like the smell of cat urine in the morning, is there?

Check oil levels in van, blower, and pump! This would seem to be a no-brainer, but everyone's heard the stories...

Wash the van if necessary. Your van is an extension of you, your company, and the pride you take in your profession. It communicates something about you to clients both new and old. Make sure it's sending the right message.

Van Maintenance
Van maintenance obviously goes well beyond exterior aesthetics. Frequent oil changes, especially if you operate a CDS unit, are essential. With your engine idling on every job, the odometer reading is not an accurate indicator of when to have the oil changed. We always check all fluids at the end of the day.

Preventive van maintenance is key to any carpet-cleaning operation. If your trucks don't run, neither does your business.