10 things that will get you in trouble with a customer (and how to avoid them)…

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by Tom Watson on October 6, 2013

Once you get a few cleaning accounts under your belt the next step is keep them happy. This is key because if you can’t do that you’ll be stuck in an endless cycle of always needing new accounts to bring in revenue.

That “cycle” is NEVER going to be broken until you figure out how to make customers happy. While keeping folks happy is multi-faceted (it has as much to do with your relationship with the customer as it does the cleaning), cleaning is still a BIG PART of the equation.

Needless to say I believe the best way to grow is to get a few accounts THEN put “systems” in place to KEEP them happy. Then you can add a few more accounts over time, applying what you learned from the first customers to make the second batch even happier. From there you just REPEAT THIS PROCESS.

When I first started my business I didn’t have too much trouble getting folks to hire me, but learning how to keep them happy was more challenging. It always seemed like I was slipping up in one way or another and getting myself into trouble.

Eventually I started to find my groove and keeping people happy became a lot easier as a result. So with all that said I’ll make mention of 10 things that you need to keep an eye on. If you neglect them you can be sure your customers will fix the issue one way or another.

10 cleaning related issues to avoid

1 Dusty window sills – This may not seem like a big deal, but forgetting to dust (and or wipe) the sills (including the area where the window locks are) will get you in trouble over the long haul. This is EASILY fixable by keeping your eye on it and taking care of it before it gets bad.

2 Edging the carpet – This is something I always keep my eyes on. It’s one of those little details that you really can’t put your finger on yet it makes a big difference. If you just edge a little at a time you will stay on top of this and never get spanked by the customer.

3 Dusty partition ledges – For some reason this gets over looked by far too many cleaning companies. Generally you don’t have to dust them each time, but you do need to give them some attention every once in a while.

4 Coffee stained sinks – This is another of those small details that will sink you (no pun intended) if you don’t stay on top of it. By just using a little touch of cleanser or Soft Scrub you can make the sink shine.

5 Crumbs under the microwave or toaster oven – Just about any appliance that rests on the counter will have crumbs under it. Sadly the vast majority of cleaners don’t take the two seconds it takes to lift the front edge and get rid of the crumbs.

6 Tons of cobwebs – These come in two varieties… high and low. The high ones dangle along the wall, ceilings and from ceiling fans and the low ones build up along baseboards and near entry points (like the front door). Scanning the area while you are performing other tasks will keep you on top of them.

7 Oily buildup on doors and switch plates – All the oil from peoples hands transfer to the surface making for a sticky and unsanitary collection of germs. A damp cloth and some anti-bacterial solution sanitizes and cleans in one fell swoop.

8 Fingerprints on mirrors – It’s so easy to make a mirror shine yet many cleaning companies don’t take the time needed to do so. Some glass cleaner and five or six seconds is all it takes to eliminate this potential trouble spot.

9 Faucets that don’t shine – It doesn’t take all that much effort to make the kitchen and bathroom faucets shine nice and bright. This doesn’t stop some from giving it a half-baked effort. This is another one of those tiny little details that some folks just don’t get.

10 Dirty toilet flanges – While many people don’t have any issue cleaning the inside and outside of the bowl, some completely forget that the toilet reaches all the way down to the floor. Where it bolts to the floor is the real issue, so make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

I firmly believe that if you are doing all the basic cleaning duties as you are supposed to you won’t have that many issues keeping the customer happy. The items I just described are all BASIC STUFF that is easily preventable.

All you really have to do is stay on top of these items and not let them become an issue. This is KEY because the customer may not call you and complain. They may just call another company and give you early retirement.

If anyone has any other suggestions for what we should all be on the look out for feel free to leave some comments below. I’m sure that I left some things out so don’t be shy about speaking up!

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jaime October 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Thanks Tom!! We all could use a reminder.

2 Lynda Fay October 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm

I am really trying to start a residential cleaning business. Made cards, put them in by neighbors with $10 coupon off 1st cleaning. Ran add for a month in newspaper. Gave to realtors and hairdresser. I have had about 4 jobs but one for for a sale of house and it sold in one day. Another was moving to SC.. Another clean grout in very lg kitchen that was never sealed and she decided to get a wood floor. I am 66 with lots of energy and look allot younger than my age. I am getting down. I only want 3 jobs a week. What do you think?

3 Tom Watson October 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Thanks Jaime!

4 Tom Watson October 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Hi Lynda! You are doing the right things, you just need to do more of it (don’t stop). As far as the newspaper, either do it “month after month” or don’t do it at all. Newspaper ads need to be run CONSTANTLY to be effective, so don’t get down over not getting anything.

Join a networking group and go to EVERY meeting. Keep going to realtors REGULARLY. Whatever you do needs to be REPETITIVE. What do credit card companies do? They NEVER STOP sending you offers! You need to be like them. RELENTLESS! You will be fine, just keep moving.

5 Dan October 6, 2013 at 8:41 pm

What do you think about paying your workers by the job instead of by the hour.

6 Tom Watson October 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Hi Dan! As long as everyone is on the same page then fine. If circumstances call for someone to go over their allotted time then tell them to just justify the reason on their time card or equivalent (or call you for permission).

7 LAD October 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Hey Tom, It’s been a few months since I asked you about Magic Eraser removing vacuum marks off of rubber baseboards in offices. Magic Eraser does NOT work for this particular job, so I will try something else. On today’s topic, customers are often impressed that I do further research about cleaning. This research not only impresses the customers but gets the job done faster! Thanks!

8 Nann October 6, 2013 at 9:17 pm

One more mistake to avoid is crumbs on the edges of the kitchen floor! After you think you are all done mopping, get down on your hands and knees with a cleaning cloth and just go around the edge of the floor to get ALL the crumbs.

9 Tom Watson October 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Hi Nann! VERY good one. That attention to detail will certainly keep the customer happy.

10 Tom Watson October 6, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Hi LAD! THANKS for the update on Magic Eraser. And YES… customers like to know you are knowledgeable in the latest cleaning practices. This also helps you as to try to become known as a “trusted advisor”. The more you know the more they turn to YOU (which means more money too!).

11 bio cleaner October 7, 2013 at 9:15 am

great post, I am a cleaner and find reading these posts a reminder to what to look for or clean when working!

12 Tom Watson October 7, 2013 at 10:46 am

Thanks for commenting!

13 Jess October 8, 2013 at 8:57 am

Hello tom,
Another thing That can gather dust is light and socket switches, plus they get grubby with finger marks

14 Tom Watson October 8, 2013 at 9:37 am

Hi Jess! I agree completely.

15 James Stevenson October 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

Thanks, I recollect a previous blog where you mentioned you gained a client because the previous cleaner didn’t listen to what was important (IIRC it was a dirty entrance-lobby).

So I guess there’s also an element of listening, asking the client what’s extra special to them, along with the ‘obvious’ places as you’ve listed above.


16 Tom Watson October 9, 2013 at 9:12 am

Hi James! YES. You need to find out what the customers “pet peeves” are before you get hired. This makes life easier for you (if you know what bugs them, you can make sure to NEVER drop the ball on those things). TIP: most customers have 2 or 3 pet peeves.

You find this out through a combination of LISTENING to what they say when you meet them and ASKING direct questions (“What are your 3 biggest pet peeves with your current cleaning company?”). Most customers will tell you what they want, you just need to listen PLUS ask good questions.

17 Lynda Fay October 9, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Should I advertise on Craig’s list? Could you help with the wording? I would only like to advertise in my area.
Thanks so much for the great advice and also all the great comments.

18 Tom Watson October 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hi Lynda! Why not… its free. I did a big post on that a while ago. It spells it all out… check it out here… http://www.cleaning-4-profit.com/2010/11/14/advertising-your-cleaning-business-on-craigslist/

19 Thomas October 16, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Don’t ever forget any and all cold air returns and vents for the HVAC system. Such neglect by others has afforded me the opportunity for at least one large client!

20 Tom Watson October 16, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Hi Thomas! YES… VERY good one. Those vents go unnoticed by MANY people.

21 Patti November 12, 2013 at 1:46 pm

DETAIL is key. Cleaning Maid Easy wipes down trash cans. They get nasty and are germ collectors. We wipe remote controls with Lysol four in one, door knobs, light switches, top of refrigerators. We rarely use a mop. One, I can’t find any good mops that can handle being washed everyday because we never use the same mop from one home to the next. Getting on your hands and knees and cleaning the old fashion way is a sure way to earn a good name for your company. Being on your hands and knees, you can’t miss the dirt left behind from sweeping.

22 Tom Watson November 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Great tips Patti! Light switches and the top of the fridge are HUGE. Customers notice those details all the time. Thanks for commenting!

23 Kelly November 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm

So true.. I really appreciate all your emails. I love this website! 🙂 thank you.

24 Tom Watson November 20, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Hi Kelly! You are very welcome, thanks for stopping in.

25 my clean February 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm

my top tips would be…

*check the fridge floor or base, and wipe over the rubber seals and dislodge any small food particle from its grooves.

* invest in a halogen scraper, works wonders for also scraping the bottom of the oven and inside glass doors, after applying oven detergents..saves time, the life of your scourers and uses less detergents.

* hot water, top quality washing up liquid and a sponge scorer (non-scratch if need) clean 99% domestic chores in the home. other items used are micro cloths to use damp and dry micro cloths for buffing stainless steel, mirrors and glass. A cream cleaner for cleaning stainless steel and to tackle limescale, bleach for removing stains, plug holes and to clean toilets. A spot of Harpic toilet cleaner on a sponge scourer with some water to foam is very effective. use neat for sever limescale build up, though be careful to not leave it on stainless steel for long then 30 secs before rinsing as it will leave a burn stain. Always test on small area first!

* invest in a steam mop, can be used with a floor spray or without so saving time, energy and environment!

26 Tom Watson February 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Great tips! Cleaning the rubber seals is one most people miss when cleaning, yet the customer always looks for.

27 Carol February 7, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I was reading this thread last week and decided to place a free ad on Craig’s list as the link above described, and have got 2 move out cleans from it. Free advertising works!!

28 Tom Watson February 7, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Hi Carol! That’s GREAT. Craigslist should be on everyone’s list. It’s free and it allows you to practice how to write an ad that pulls in readers. Great stuff! Thanks Carol.

29 Jeff June 28, 2016 at 10:25 am

Don’t forget to clean hinges, toilet paper holders and door latches in restroom stalls. People sit and look around when using the facilities and they notice these things.

30 Tom Watson June 28, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Hi Jeff! Very true… they look at all that!

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