How To Manage Customer “Expectations”

Post image for How To Manage Customer “Expectations”

by Tom Watson on February 18, 2011

Starting a cleaning business means you will have your fair share of customer contact.

Most of this customer interaction will go quite well with no problems to speak of.

Sometimes however this serene “calm” is broken by an irate customer. In many cases this “calm” will be broken right off the bat, from a customer that is brand new to your company.

The customer may call complaining about any number of things that they are unhappy with. It could be one issue, it could be two issues or it could be just a general “unhappiness” with all of the work performed.

Though you will never be able to completely insulate yourself against unhappy customers, after all you’re not going to be perfect all the time, you should be able to minimize the occurrences of this dilemma.

Doing so will require you to tackle this issue head on through “education”. You’ll want to discuss with the customer what is to be expected when all work is complete. This approach allows you to address topics before they become an issue.

In other words it puts the both of you on the “same page”. Being on the proverbial same page is key to having a healthy business relationship. In addition, this will increase your chances for even more business, or possibly even referrals.

As to the actual mechanics of the education process, this will vary from job to job. In some cases you may pick up an 5 x per week account that has not been cleaned very well for some time, leaving your company to bring everything up to speed.

In a case like that you may want to explain to the customer that some time may be needed to get the facility back to a respectable appearance (provided a one time clean was not part of the agreement). It may be a week or two in cases like these, maybe more depending on the size.

In cases like this one, by educating the customer you would have avoided a complaint after the first couple of days saying your not cleaning very well. These types of issues happen from time to time and are easily avoided.

Remember, you have to keep in mind the customers “perspective”. All they know is your being paid to clean, and it should be clean “right away” so to speak in their eyes.

At other times you may be hired for a one time cleaning (foreclosure, move in – move out) on a home or office that is in poor condition. In cases like this you may need to discuss the fact that because of it’s condition, it may not respond well to cleaning.

This may mean that the kitchen faucets will still look dirty after being cleaned, that the woodwork will still appear dull even after being washed or that the bathroom tile will look dated and worn after the service is complete. You get the idea.

Once you gain some experience in the cleaning business, you’ll know what is possible and what’s not possible when cleaning a facility. For instance I can take a quick glance at a bathroom tub, or refrigerator and tell you with high accuracy how well it will look when done.

This type of knowledge is key when accepting jobs because I can explain to the customer “what to expect” of our service. Over time you will get better at “managing expectations” too. You may experience the occasional “unhappy” customer during the learning process, but that is to be expected.

Everyone has a few unhappy customer stories to share during their cleaning career, and it’s nothing to lose any sleep over. So to summarize today’s lesson just remember, the harder you work at the “expectation game” the less likely you’ll run into any problems in your cleaning business.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to our RSS feed and get loads more by clicking here.

If you need detailed instructions on how to start your own cleaning business, then check out my value packed course by clicking here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Martin Wren March 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm

The biggest problem we have found is clients that won’t be specific. Usually the complaint is the facility just isn’t clean. Doesn’t give us much to go with to fix a problem. When asked for specifics they can’t give us any. Any suggestions on this?

2 Tom Watson March 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm

What a great question! This is a MAJOR problem when you start getting feedback like this. In my opinion, this is a situation where you need to ask DIRECT questions. I would argue that you can’t take “no specifics” for an answer from the customer.

Though I’m always kind and considerate with my customers, I don’t accept answers that don’t make any sense. If I can’t leave the meeting or hang up the phone “knowing with complete confidence” what I need to do to fix something, then I make my thoughts clear. I have actually used this line many times over my career:

“I need to know specifically what I need to do to make you happy. I can’t tell my staff to come in and make things better “in general”, but I can tell them to clean the toilets completely inside and out and make sure the kitchen tables are wiped down corner to corner. So please walk me through exactly what needs to be done to correct the cleaning in specifics that I can act on.”

That approach has worked well for me because I think it educates the customer in a way they can understand. I must admit this does not always work, and you must prepare yourself for that outcome. If they won’t or can’t articulate the issue, then you need to go out to the facility and make your best guess as to what went wrong.

I do think the direct approach is best because when the customer makes statements like “The place is dirty in general”, you are in a perilous position. You could be one step away from being terminated. When viewed in that light, you have nothing to lose by being brutally direct with the customer. It’s better to cut to the chase asap and bring the issue to conclusion.

Hope that helps!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: