The Residential Cleaning Pre-Inspection

June 25, 2002
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Pre-inspections allow for exact price quotes, among other things.


"In order to sell your product, you don't so much point out its merits as you first work like heck to sell yourself."
- Louis Kronenberger

I saw the light almost 30 years ago. And as often happens with paradigm shifts, it appeared with little fanfare. I had finished cleaning a large residence, and the homeowner handed me the check. I expected this. But I was unprepared for the list of names and phone numbers accompanying it.

"Steve, I've already called these people and told them how great my carpets look," she said. "They are expecting a call from you to have their homes done. I am so very impressed by your service..."

Wow. It hit like a ton of bricks. This woman could be a treasure trove of referrals worth thousands of dollars. Imagine if someone else had signed her up! Even worse, image how many other potential "cheerleader" customers are missed through the years by giving a quick price over the phone and dismissing the caller as "just another price shopper"?

I had fallen into the trap of "everyone says." Conventional wisdom says you cannot afford to pre-inspect every single job. True, selling each and every carpet-cleaning prospect requires time and money invested up front. However, this pre-inspection investment will likely return many thousands of dollars in the years to come. Viewing each customer as long-term appreciating asset, can you really afford not to pre-inspect his or her carpets and make absolutely sure the client winds up in your "customer vault"?

Here is why you should try to pre-inspect virtually every new job:

Greater immediate income
An in-person carpet cleaning pre-inspection will definitely close more jobs than even the most convincing over-the-phone estimate. The additional cash flow resulting from the new bookings should more than cover your increased inspection costs.

Pre-conditioned customers
Ever bend down and feel the traffic lane of a carpet before you pre-spray it? Hard, crunchy and stiff. Sounds like some of your customers, right? Just as you pre-treat difficult carpet fibers, a pre-inspection will soften up even the most difficult homeowner. "Pre-conditioned customers" are much easier for your technicians to convert into coveted customer cheerleaders. Pre-conditioned customers also mean lower stress and higher morale for your employees.

Faster production
Pre-inspecting means the technician does not lose time estimating the job before it is started. When the tech has a pre-figured work order in hand, he can start cleaning immediately.

Fewer misunderstandings
It is tough communicating over the phone. Pre-inspecting allows time to review how to prepare the home for the cleaning, give an exact price, and qualify any pre-existing problems. You will also know exactly how much time to schedule for the job.

More up-sells
Let's face it: Most technicians want to clean carpet, not sell add-ons. The very best time to "sell up" is during the pre-inspection. In fact, many cleaners say their increased protector sales more than pay for the entire cost of making pre-inspections.

Sure, there are challenges with this pre-inspection philosophy. Many prospects are busy and initially don't want the hassle of two different appointments. Deal with this by scheduling flexible inspections on weekends and in the evening. Yes, there will always be some jobs too remote or too small to pre-inspect; counter this by developing a phone interview "script" to pre-qualify the customer before convincing them of the wisdom of having their home pre-inspected.

Pre-inspections versus over-the-phone estimates will always be a controversial subject in the industry. I offer a Strategies for Success motto: "If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got!" So instead of automatically assuming pre-inspecting will not work for you, why not try the concept for a week? My guess is you will find you will more than pay for your extra time, effort and gas with more efficient scheduling and machine time, higher up-sells, increased bookings and, above all, many more delighted cheerleaders singing your praises to everyone they know.

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