Top 10 things to avoid when meeting a residential cleaning customer

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by Tom Watson on July 26, 2015

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to grow your cleaning business is by making every single customer WILDLY HAPPY they chose you as their provider.

While there are a lot of moving parts to making a customer happy enough to tell others how great you are, I’m going to focus on some that may be “off the radar” for a lot of beginners.

Top 10 things to avoid when meeting customers

1 – Don’t HANG OUT in the customers driveway.

When you pull into the customers driveway get out of your vehicle immediately. The idea here is that you need to BE READY BEFORE you arrive. Sitting in the customers driveway getting all your affairs in order creates ANXIETY FOR THE CLIENT. Odds are they saw you pull in and stopped what they were doing. Should they now ‘SIT AND WAIT” for you to get your act together? Answer… NO! P.S. For extra points it’s BEST to park in front of the home, NOT in the driveway.

2 – Don’t cut across their perfectly (or imperfectly) manicured lawn.

Use the sidewalk at all times. I have two valid reasons for this. One is because some folks spend a lot of time making their lawn look it’s best and don’t like people walking on it (plus why risk stepping in some doggie “do do”?). The second reason is because it subconsciously “plants the seed” that you TAKE SHORTCUTS. Do you want customers to think you take the time to do things right, or do you want them to think you take shortcuts? The answer is clear!

3 – Don’t hide behind your fancy sunglasses.

You are not here to make a fashion statement, you are here to ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP with the customer. One of the ways you do that is through EYE CONTACT. Hiding behind the shades also makes you look “shifty” to some people, so why risk it? Play it safe and leave them in your vehicle.

4 – Don’t “lurk” too close to the front door.

One of the little mistakes that many beginners make when knocking / ringing the doorbell is that after doing so THEY STAND TOO CLOSE TO THE DOOR. This can spook some people, especially older folks. So next time you knock on the door, take a step or two BACK FROM THE DOOR. This helps put people at ease, after all, odds are this is the FIRST TIME THEY EVER MET YOU. Simply respecting their “personal space” can make people feel more comfortable.

5 – Don’t barge into their home and start telling them what to do.

After the homeowner lets you in you need to WATCH WHAT YOU SAY. Many times beginners don’t realize that the words they chose to use can have a big impact concerning how they are perceived. You need to avoid being viewed as too “authoritative” when speaking. Phrases like “you’ll have to”, “you should have”, “like I said earlier” or “wait a minute” can make you come across as BOSSY. Instead use phrases like “would you mind” or “may I ask you to”. Basically the goal is simple, “ask them” DON’T “tell them”.

6 – Don’t text or talk in front of the customer.

Nothing SCREAMS “you are NOT AS IMPORTANT as this other person” than taking calls and texting to others when meeting with clients. I can’t tell you how many times I see this happen (many times to me when I’m hiring someone). This is another item that is best left in your vehicle in most cases. It’s not like you are the Director of Cardiac Care at the local hospital!

7 – Don’t take “too much interest” in the homeowners valuables.

The only real way to explain this is via an example… Let’s say you are invited to bid the cleaning of an expensive home in the most coveted neighborhood around. You walk in and notice a beautiful Rolex watch sitting on an end table. Asking “how much did that set you back” not only would be in bad taste, it could plant the seed that you may not be “seasoned enough” for the job.

8 – Don’t ask to use their bathroom.

I know you just finished that cup of coffee before you arrived and you are about to explode, but in all honesty, you should have taken care of that beforehand. Most everyone you run across will say “yes, of course” when asked, but many will do so grudgingly. I know you are here to bid a cleaning job and they are expecting you to see the bathroom briefly, but some may feel embarrassed “it’s not as clean as they would like it to be”. So avoid asking whenever possible. If you do use it, make sure to clean up after yourself.

9 – Don’t talk in a foreign language in front of the customer.

If you happen to be a “husband and wife” type company where two people go on the bid, make sure you keep everything in the native tongue of the customer. When you start speaking in another language in front of the client they not only feel “left out of the conversation”, their imagination also RUNS WILD as to what is being said.

10 – Don’t leave anything behind.

It’s easy to leave a notebook, pen or those sunglasses you should have left in your car BEHIND ONCE YOU ARE FINISHED. This not only creates a return trip, but it inconveniences the customer as well. In addition make sure your vehicle doesn’t LEAK OIL. Leaving some messy oil stains behind will not only annoy the customer, it will be a constant NEGATIVE reminder of that time they called your company.

I really hope this post helps you think about the “customer interaction” a little differently. As I mentioned earlier, there are a LOT OF MOVING PARTS to getting customers to choose YOU, and these are but a few of them. Also… if you have an employee meeting the customers and performing the bids, make sure they know all this. Your income DEPENDS ON IT!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Binda Kebohula July 26, 2015 at 9:37 am

Yes Tom, the above practical steps should really be taken on board if one wants to create smooth ground for dealing with the clients.

2 Tom Watson July 26, 2015 at 10:02 am

Thanks Binda!

3 Lamar saunders July 26, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Hello, any new commercial cleaning flyers lately?

4 Tom Watson July 26, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Hi Lamar!

Only the ones in my Flyers package, which has over 100 in total (roughly 50 commercial and 50 residential). Details here…

I’ll keep that in mind for a post down the road though!

5 John R July 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Excellent post, Tom.

Insights like these are the reason that I stay on your mailing list.

I would like to add one other point of advice.

NEVER, EVER speak poorly of any previous work which was done by someone other than yourself. It may be the homeowner that did the poor work, and if you cut down their work, you will alienate them.

I found this out the hard way while painting homes in the early 2000s. A customer had painted their own bathroom and made a complete mess of it. I poked fun at the poor quality of work, only to learn that the homeowner had done the work himself. Shortly afterwards he escorted me to the door. I did not land that particular fish.

The house was in a high-end neighborhood and he wanted a full rehab of the paint, inside and out. That was around $3000 of profit out the window due to my own hubris. It is a reminder to this day of the importance of staying positive while talking to customers.

In the event that a customer directly complains about their previous vendor’s work, your safe bet is to say something along the lines of “They may simply not have known any better, but we’ll get it squared up for you.”

Thanks again Tom, you ROCK!

6 Tom Watson July 26, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Hi John! Thanks for the kind words, and I really love that suggestion. That is so true, and an easy trap to fall into to.

7 Kelly July 27, 2015 at 7:47 pm

Thanks for mentioning that part about speaking ENGLISH (or native language of the customer) in front of them. Whether people know it or not, at least here in America, it’s considered extremely rude to speak a foreign language in front of someone who does not know it – especially when they know that the cleaner knows BOTH languages. It’s alienating to the customer and a real put off. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had Spanish speaking workers in MY house for various construction type jobs that were babbling away at each other right in front of me knowing full well I could not understand them. Makes my blood boil….

8 Tom Watson July 27, 2015 at 8:51 pm

Hi Kelly! Sadly… it happens all the time.

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