You can make most people happy, but there will always be one who isn’t…

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by Tom Watson on April 5, 2015

When you own a business your life revolves around making the customer happy. That sounds simple, and it is most of the time.

With that said, there will always be that one you just can’t please. No matter what you do it just isn’t good enough to make them happy.

Being in business for many years, I’ve had my fair share of them. As I’ve said before in past articles, the “consistently unhappy” customers are a small percentage of your larger customer base, but sadly they are the ones you remember when all is said and done.

Recently I added another one to my list. They were a long time customer that dates way back to the beginning of my business. They were a customer who didn’t want to pay a lot for cleaning services, all they really cared about was WHO was going to be cleaning. They were super security conscious to say the least.

I think in the past they had stuff stolen, and they thought it was the cleaning company, so this made them ultra worried about that happening again. The guy who hired me was a big boss at the company, BUT HE WAS NOT THE OWNER. This is a big distinction to make note of going forward.

The reason why is because the guy who hired me was worried about SECURITY, but the owner was worried about security AND HOW CLEAN THE PLACE WAS. So in a sense there was a bit of a “disconnect” between the big boss and the owner, and yours truly was stuck in the middle.

The place was really tough to clean because the employees didn’t keep it in good shape. I called the place “Romper Room” because it looked like a bunch of kindergarten kids was in there everyday. Gum on the floor, soda spilled all over the place, cookie crumbs from one end of the building to the other.

The condition of the place meant we could only do the basics as far as the cleaning was concerned. This didn’t make the owner happy however, as this person always wanted more service than they were paying for. This created friction naturally, as I’m not going to work for free, no matter how much someone complains.

One time the owner walked me through the facility and wanted to address a whole bunch of stuff. They were complaining about desks “not getting wiped down from end to end”. All forty or so of them. The reason it wasn’t getting done was because it wasn’t part of their cleaning package!

They also complained about food that spilled “under the desk on the fabric of the partitions”. In essence,  people ate at their desk, and mustard, ketchup and who knows what else would spill and drip down the partitions. This was UNDER the desks where people’s feet were.

So to spot it you almost had to crawl on the floor. To be honest I did see some of it, but that was NOT part of the cleaning schedule. Cleaning that would have required me to clean the partitions with my carpet cleaning equipment, which would have been extra (a LOT extra given how bad the place was).

To make a long story short, the owner was on a roll when it came to complaining. I let this person have their say, then I told them the budget they had wasn’t even remotely close to what was required. I stayed cool, and acted professional when I said it, as I tried to stay “above it all” as best as I could.  At the end of the day, it’s just business!

The moral here, if there is one, is to expect stuff like this to happen from time to time. It’s not the norm, but it will happen. Just do your best to find some common ground, tell the truth as you see it, and act professional when doing so. If you do that, you’ll be fine over the long haul.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Valerie April 5, 2015 at 1:35 pm

I’m struggling. I started my residental cleaning business 3 months ago and only have 2 customers.

I tried placing flyers on cars at the grocery store, I have cards that I have asked builders to make available to new home owners. Nothing.

Can anyone suggest something else, low cost, that I can do. I have 2 customers because the first customer recommended me. I send thank you notes.

I don’t know what else to do. Help!

2 Tom Watson April 5, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Hi Valerie! The grocery store angle won’t yield much. It’s cheap, and it’s easy, but not terribly effective. Have you visited realtors? Have you joined networking groups? These are very low cost options that work over the long haul.

3 Valerie April 5, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Thanks that a good suggest. I had tried builders but had not thought of realtors. That will be my first stop on Monday.

Netowrking groups have not yielded anything. But I do plan to continue trying.

thanks for the suggestions

4 Maria April 5, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Valerie, when I first started I hand delivered flyers to houses in the areas I wanted to work. Other times I knocked on doors and introduced myself as a local cleaning service and handed them my flyer. I hope this helps.

5 Susan April 6, 2015 at 10:40 am

Hi Valerie,
I’ve been cleaning commercial offices for 3 three years now. I only have three customers because that is all I want to take on. Two of the three were companies my husband does computer programming for. He simply mentioned my new business to his clients and they hired me right away. The third customer is one I acquired by walking door to door in a small shopping mall handing out fliers. They had just opened their business and I was in the right place at the right time. So I agree with Maria, introduce yourself personally. Tell friends and family, business associates, your hairdresser, your doctor, etc. about your new business and give out your business card or flier wherever you go. Tom has mentioned several times that you will distribute about 100 fliers before you get 1 customer. Don’t give up! 🙂

6 angela April 8, 2015 at 9:39 am

Val I kicked butt with residential personally i loath residential but it brings in the dough while building up the commercial which is my passion but here is the deal, break out the work out pants, for every 1,000 flyers delivered it yielded us 2-4 customers thats right….so every week i delivered 1000 customers so that meant approx 10 new customers per week and it adds up quick, adds up quick in the bank too…and it doesn’t hurt that we got into shape real quick…and if you play your cards right, hey, go pay a few teenagers to do it too, i was lucky i reminded my kids i pay their cell phone bills and if they wanted that privilege still, they better start moving and with a smile while their at it!! Then word of mouth starts to roll, and you can run specials once in a while since residentially all that works like a led zeplin…and boom your making the big time….don’t sweat it…in that manner getting business is quick and not hard …but tom is right….what you are doing really yields goose eggs

7 angela April 8, 2015 at 9:41 am

BTW Val NOW is the time to promote spring cleaning OMG you can be making $2,000 a WEEK no joke two homes a day and btw stay out of the mega rich developments they DO NOT SPEND THEIR MONEY….I made all my money on middle to middle upper class developments THEY SPEND I can’t stress this enough and they respect you and they tip you and never treat you like trash ….just saying

8 angela April 8, 2015 at 9:43 am

***disclaimer***this is just my opinion to be used for entertainment purposes only not to be held against me if you need immediate attention please seek professional advice by calling Tom Watson 609-451-0903. All statements made by Angela can not be held up in a court of cleaning law!!

9 Tom Watson April 8, 2015 at 10:54 am


10 angela April 8, 2015 at 11:09 am

She asked about residential right? Commercial is a totally different beast….I was giving tips on residential not commercial

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