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Putting Carpet Cleaning Basics to Work

October 14, 2003
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For more than 10 years we have been looking at carpet cleaning basics. Perhaps now is the time to look at making money from what we have learned by understanding who will be writing the check.

To market cleaning services most effectively, it will be helpful to identify the demographics of current carpet-cleaning service users. A recent research study funded by the Institute for Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification has pinpointed several characteristics of the group that will buy, or has bought, carpet-cleaning services. More than 1,000 American adults who have children and/or pets were interviewed nationwide.

Who buys cleaning? Curiously, this group includes men over 45 years of age, with some college education, and a family income of $75,000 to $100,000. Just over a third of those interviewed had used a professional cleaning service in the past.

Who selects the cleaner? In most cases, a cleaner is selected by the female head of household. My observation during my years of cleaning is that men just don't see soiling. This seems to hold true in both residential and commercial settings.

How is the cleaner selected? People using carpet-cleaning services tend to find independent contractors via word of mouth; the Yellow pages rank a strong second. Additionally, a majority of those individuals who used a professional cleaning company would recommend that company to a friend. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed chose an independent and 29 percent a franchise, with the remainder unable to recall their selection.

What attributes do buyers value? The most-highly valued attributes singled out when selecting the cleaner are value for dollars spent, flexibility in scheduling, and promptness.

What services do they buy? Hot-water extraction, or "steam cleaning," is the most popular service selected. Sixteen percent purchased a protectant with their last cleaning. Logically, the more pets in a home, the more likely a protectant will be applied. Well over half of the respondents reported that they were offered stain removal with their most recent cleaning.

Value-added features. Only one in five respondents received a follow-up call from the cleaning company to inquiry as to their satisfaction. Only one in five respondents are aware that carpet cleaners can be certified.

The greatest room for improvement seems to be in the area of "I'm running late today" calls. It just takes a moment to call, but it means a great deal to the customer stuck at home waiting for the cleaner. Those respondents who used an independent carpet-cleaning company are more likely to experience strong satisfaction levels than those who used a franchise, as are those who used firms that follow-up with their customers, according to the study.

Major cleaning challenges. The major problems in keeping carpets clean are food and beverage spills; animal shedding; hard-to-get-out stains; and mud or dirt tracked in from outside.

Who doesn't hire a professional, and why don't they? Three basic reasons surfaced as to why some have never used a professional cleaning service: They don't feel that they need one; they do it themselves with equipment they own or rent; or it is too expensive to hire a pro, so they rent a machine and do it themselves.

There you have it, fellow carpet cleaners: some insight into your potential customer. This research study is available online to IICRC-certified firms. Remember, the customer values promptness, flexibility, and economic value for the dollars spent.

Now go out there and make money! Until next month, see ya!

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