Communicating Expectations

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by Tom Watson on August 25, 2011

When I first started my cleaning business I worked very hard at making the phone ring.

I was handing out flyers, networking up a storm and mailing out direct mail letters at an astonishing rate.

Did all that effort work? In a nutshell…YES. The phone started to ring alright. In fact is started to ring like crazy. I didn’t land every job when the phone rang but I got my fair share of them.

Whenever I got a new account I went out of my way to make sure the customer was thrilled with our service. This lead to even more accounts.

Money was pouring in each month like clockwork. Life was good. But then the train started to come derailed. How did I know? Because the dreaded complaints started to roll in.

First there was just a trickle of complaints, then the trickle became a flood. I was drowning in my own success and I needed a timeout from this happy story turned upside down.

So what went wrong? After giving the problem some thought, I came to a quick conclusion. I was not communicating expectations to my employees very well.

I was really just hiring anyone I could find, helping them through the first week or so (which is why the customers were happy “at first”) and then leaving them on their own.

This approach seemed good to me, after all I didn’t know any better. I just “assumed” anyone I hired would be “just like me” and do a great job. After all, don’t employees just want a place to make ends meet?

Well, not exactly. I found myself dealing with misunderstood instructions, accountability confusion, tardiness, inappropriate dress, and even people who only showed up when they wanted to.

A few even skipped a day or two without notice only to “reappear” in a few days as if nothing happened. “What had I gotten myself into?” was all I could think of.

This type of problem leaves many small business owners thinking they need to do all the work themselves because “It’s so hard to find good people!”.

So they fire the problem makers and work morning till night doing it all by themselves. This in turn leads to burnout and general unhappiness. Which isn’t much better than what you had before! So whats the answer?

Communicating Expectations

When serving your cleaning customers you have to assess the needs of that particular client, THEN establish expectations to address those needs in a way that meets their expectations.

This means taking the time to convey what “clean” means to the staff member in an easy to understand way. The clearer you describe the expectations, the less likely that problems will arise.

At the end of the day how can we hold our employees accountable to meeting vague or absent expectations? The answer is you can’t!

Employees won’t and never will manage themselves without a clear mission statement handed down from you to them in the most straightforward way possible.

The people who you wind up hiring should expect to get the tools, training and support they need to do their job to the best of their ability. The vast majority want to be a part of a work environment where they can do their best and get the most out of what you have to offer.

But before that happens they need you to make that commitment first so they can follow. So do your best to set the right expectations for yourself, your customers, and your people from the very beginning.

With that said, the very best cleaning businesses (and the most profitable ones) will constantly strive to exceed those expectations, which results in very strong customer loyalty.

The cleaning companies that don’t exceed expectations or worse yet, fall below expectations wind up taking every proposal that comes along, making promises they can’t keep to all who will listen.

They then go on to disappoint their customers and themselves in the process. This act makes their dream of financial security truly seem like a dream, with no reality to speak of.

So take the time to think through what it would take to make each individual customer happy, then come up with an attack plan to make it happen. Then just communicate that plan to your staff in a clear manner.

Following up regularly with both your customer and employees will lead to a well oiled cleaning company that is both profitable and easy to manage.

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