Cleaning & Restoration Association News

What’s My Line?

February 6, 2003
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An offhand comment may bite you in the end.


In the course of a busy workweek, we spend a great deal of time conversing with our clients. This usually consists of a lot of small talk and “business speak.”

During this interaction we tend to use a variety of words and terms to deliver simple messages. There is, however, a wrong way and a right way to present these points. It is important to understand both the language of carpet care and how the simplest words and phrases can affect how your message is heard. This will help you avoid those awkward situations that develop when a thought or comment is misinterpreted by the client as an insult, situations that often result in a loss of repeat and referral business.

Wrong Line: “Mrs. Smith, your carpets were extremely dirty.”
The word “dirty” sends a negative message. The homeowner becomes embarrassed and possibly defensive.
Right Line: “Mrs. Smith, your carpets were heavily soiled.”
The word “soiled” keeps the discussion focused on the carpeting. Carpets do become soiled; that is why the client dials your number. “Dirty” may imply an overall lack of attention to areas beyond the carpeting, as well as impart a feeling (real or imagined) that you are placing blame for this condition on the client.

Wrong Line: “If the price is too high, we can do it cheaper.”
Never use the word “cheaper.” This implies a lack of financial means and/or a consumer concerned only with the bottom line. While both may be the case, avoid this word at all costs.
Right Line: “If the price exceeds your projected expense, we can adjust it for you.”
Feel the difference?

Wrong Line: “Lady, your carpets are absolutely trashed.”
Perhaps the homeowner should have phoned you five years ago; the fact remains she did not. Embarrassing or admonishing the homeowner is not the goal here. But it is important to remember that you are there to do a job, and that the job involves fully explaining the situation and possibly lowering the expectations of the client.
Right Line: “Mrs. Smith, we will do the best we can utilizing our many years of experience and our state-of-the-art equipment. However, your carpeting is at or near the replacement stage, and I feel you should be aware of this before we commence work.”

Wrong Line: “You need to vacuum more often.”
Again, nothing like implying the homeowner is a lousy housekeeper!
Right Line: “Regular vacuuming helps prolong the life of your carpet.”

Wrong Line: “We don’t move heavy furniture.”
Maybe they are expecting you to move that two-story hutch, but then again, maybe they are not. Why start off by putting them on the defensive?
Right Line: “Folks, we will move what we can and do the open areas around other items.”

Wrong Line: “Whoever did those seams should be shot,” or “The store sold you the wrong type of carpeting for a room with heavy traffic.”
Why contribute to the client’s existing angst?
Right Line: “Phone the store and request a repair/re-stretch. I also have the name of a good carpet mechanic if your warranty has expired.”
We frequently encounter carpeting either in need of repair or re-stretching. Often times the homeowner will start placing blame on the retail outfit or carpet mechanic. This may be the case, but you are a professional; never join the tirade.

Remember, when speaking with your clients, be helpful, not critical!

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