Tuning Up the Details

February 18, 2011
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“God is in the details.” – Michelangelo

I’ve always been a ‘big picture” man. True confessions time: I don’t know how to program our DVD player or install my computer software, and I didn’t even set my new digital watch. My long-suffering wife does all this high-tech stuff for me. After all, most of us prefer for someone else (usually our spouse) to “fill in the details.”

You can survive this happy-go-lucky life of not sweating the details if you have “technical back-up” from family and friends. But when an entrepreneur ignores the tiny details of their business, disaster usually isn’t far behind. Why? Because your customers base their entire opinion on the details of their experience with your company! This is why a “Detail Tune-up” will likely transform your business.

Now, as a carpet cleaner performing a service in the customer’s home, your Detail Tune-up is a bit trickier than most. Remember that 80% of how a customer decides if their carpet cleaner has done a good job or a bad job is based on how they feel about the person actually doing the work. Therefore, you should focus on your customer’s emotions, not on your technical procedures or equipment.

When an unknown carpet cleaner enters the customer’s home, their inner sanctum, for the first time, what sort of “emotional landscape” does he or she face? It’s not a pretty picture! Simply put, homeowners feel suspicious, intimidated, threatened, vulnerable, invaded and most of all very, very afraid as they wait for you to ring their door bell that first time.

Your business tune-up must “program in” tiny emotional details that reassure the customer and smooth over their fearful and stressed feelings. For example …

The First Phone Call

It’s not enough to have a good phone script (you do have a written phone format to guide the conversation, don’t you?). Even with the best script, though, your phone person must project a cheerful, competent attitude and a sincere interest in the caller. This is tougher than it sounds! While these emotional phone skills can be taught, your life will be easier if your phone person’s personality matches this emotionally sensitive profile.

Arriving at the Job

Be afraid…very, very afraid. Each carpet cleaning job is an emotional minefield just waiting to blow up on an insensitive, clueless technician. For example, upon driving into the customer’s driveway do you sit in your truck to make phone calls, eat lunch or finish your cigarette? Meanwhile, where is your client? Nervously peering out the window as her blood pressure and fear level rises! So get out of your service vehicle immediately upon arrival.

Bonus detail:Why not park in the street, where the homeowner can see your signed van over your shoulder when they open their door? You can then ask permission to pull into their driveway, and also ask them, “On which side would you like me to park?” You can even suggest they pull their car out now if they will need to leave during the cleaning. All little details, but oh-so-very valuable in changing how the homeowner feels about you!

At the Front Door

This is where the rubber hits the road. Look at your personal grooming and personal hygiene through the eyes (and nose) of your customer. Are you neat, tidy and well groomed? Sure, you may personally love wild, extravagant tattoos, extensive body piercing and a generally unkempt appearance. But what message do these silent details send your client before you say a word?

Do you:
  1. Stand back three feet so your customer doesn’t feel crowded and intimidated upon opening the door?
  2. Look the customer in the eye and smile before greeting them?
  3. Introduce yourself and your helper with your first and last names and explain what each employee will be doing in the customer’s home?
  4. Tactfully “break the ice” by making a sincere comment and complimenting the homeowner on their choice of home/yard/car/neighborhood or other possession?
How do you ask to enter your client’s home? Here’s the verbal detail we always used after breaking the ice. After looking down at your paperwork, simply say, “Mrs. Jones, I see we are scheduled to clean your…” It is amazing – the door will swing open as if on rails!

Now before just barging in let’s tune up one more detail. Do you carefully place a fresh, clean door mat before stepping inside, or else put on shoe covers? Either way, this detail sends the silent message that you care about the customer’s home, and you aren’t going to track in more dirt than you take out!

Bonus detail: An honest look at the Emotional Dynamics in carpet cleaning tells us that often your (usually) female customer is a bit nervous with a male technician in her home. Personal security is a huge factor for many homeowners, and with good reason! So make sure all your employees (including you) prominently display I.D. badges with their photo, name and company logo clearly visible.

Getting Started

It is tempting to burst into the home and start making that cleaning wand sing. Don’t do it! Instead, investing a few more minutes now with your client will pay off big time later.

For example, always ask the homeowner, “Could you give me a quick tour?” followed by “and as we walk through, would you please show me any areas of special concern?” Both of these requests display your care and concern, plus let you find out what is important to your customer.

Bonus detail: During your walk-through, always take “Immediate Action” on your customer’s concerns. The easiest IA is to simply write down what your customer tells you on the work order. For example, when the homeowner shows you a spot they are worried about, just drop to one knee, whip out a white towel and spotter bottle and ask if you can “test the spot for residue removal?” The result? An instant Cheerleader, thanks to your IA!

Doing the Job

Remember how you looked forward to “show and tell” in kindergarten? It works with customers too. Why? Because a picture is always worth a thousand words! Right from the git-go, pick the dirtiest area that your client was obviously most worried about during your walk-through. Then give the homeowner a mental picture of just how great a job you are going to do.

Do a “Magic Square” demo:
  1. pre-spray and agitate an area about 24” square
  2. clean it, leaving a startling difference between the dirty and clean areas
  3. call the homeowner to marvel over the dramatic contrast!
Wow! That’s more than 20 different build-a-better-relationship-with-your-customer details we’ve added to your in-the-home routine, yet I doubt we’ve increased your average job time by more than five minutes.

If you program in these synergistic details into your daily work routine, you will dramatically increase your Customer Cheerleaders. These delighted clients will then enrich both your personal life and your financial net worth for many years to come!

Author’s Note: It definitely bears repeating: you do have a written phone format to guide the conversation when a prospective client calls, right? If not, go to http://tiny.cc/SFStel to download the one I used for 20 years!

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