The fear of spots reappearing after cleaning a carpet haunts many technicians. Cleaners work hard to please customers, but are then frustrated when they receive a call informing them that spots have returned.
If returning spots are a mystery, it can be embarrassing to not be able to explain it to customers. Understanding what causes them is vital to confidently communicating with consumers.
A spot-clean warranty can help keep lines of communication open. In most cases, these spots are not the fault of the cleaner.
What is causing spots to come back? There are four reasons spots seem to return.
1. Improper cleaning
There are some ways that cleaners can cause this problem. Improper cleaning procedures can create an environment in which spots reappear.
First, some spills can saturate carpet yarns down to the backing. If the cleaner fails to do a thorough and deep cleaning of the spot, the dirt is only removed from the surface portion of the yarns. The deep soil can now rise to the surface during the drying process, causing the spot to appear to return.
Second, the problem may stem from spotting agents which require special rinsing. If the proper procedures are not followed, a sticky residue can be left in the carpet. In this case, the original spill has been removed but the cleaning agent left behind is now the cause of re-soiling.
2. Consider the source
Some consumer spills can penetrate beyond the face fibers and into the carpet backing and pad. In this situation, even though the face fibers are thoroughly cleaned, the source for re-soiling lies beyond the reach of standard maintenance cleaning procedures. A portion of the original spill is still present and can come to the surface, causing a problem. Common examples of this are pet urine or oil spills.
Unless the customer informs the cleaner that a deep penetrating spill has occurred, there is no reason for the cleaner to anticipate a problem. It is otherwise reasonable for cleaners to assume that if the face fibers are clean, then he has successfully accomplished his job.
3. Sticky spots
There are certain spills and products that in of themselves are not visible but are sticky and collect dirt. The visible spot is not the original spill or product, but the soil it collects.
Here again, unless the cleaner is informed of the more complicated nature of the spot, it is reasonable to assume the problem is resolved when it can no longer be seen.
A common example is when consumers use inappropriate products to clean their own carpet. These products may clean the original spot but then leave an invisible sticky residue causing spots to return.
4. New spills
In some cases, there is no re-soiling problem. What gives the illusion of a returning spot is actually a new spill.
Consumers often cannot account for what caused the original spots. It is possible to clean the carpet properly and still have the source of the spots continue to produce new ones.
A common example of this is when a child wanders the house dripping apple juice on the carpet. The apple juice spills are not detected, but over the next few days dirt from dust in the air or from shoes will bond with the sticky drip spots and become noticeable.
For most cleaners, unless there was a failure to follow standard cleaning procedures, returning spots are booby traps. The technician did not cause them and cannot reasonably be expected to know that a problem existed.
There should be no feelings of failure on the part of the person who properly cleaned the carpet. Unless the cleaner was the cause of the problem, an apology is not appropriate.
Explaining booby traps
However, it is the cleaner’s responsibility to explain these situations to customers. It is important to stay calm and professional. Keep in mind that the problem was previously unknown.
Now that the problem has been revealed, appropriate questions can be asked to determine what is causing it. Once the cause is found, a plan can then be formulated to solve it.
Many of these cases can be avoided with a thorough pre-inspection and customer interview for each client before a cleaning.
Good questions can expose many of these situations prior to cleaning. Is the consumer aware of what caused the existing spots? What spot cleaning solutions have been used? Are there pets that could cause spots? Have there been any previous instances of spots coming back?
A spot that returns is always inconvenient. Attempting to avoid the truth of this problem will result in unhappy customers. A professional cleaner should always be on the lookout for these situations.
Even though it takes additional effort to resolve these problems, they create opportunities to demonstrate expertise and professionalism.
Spot cleaning warranty
Consumers are uncomfortable if they feel they must complain to solve this problem. They often tolerate it until the next time they need a cleaner. Unfortunately, they will probably choose a different company.
Offering a 30 or 60 day spot-cleaning warranty helps customers feel more comfortable informing you of these situations. It is worth going out of the way to resolve these issues once and for all to avoid losing a good customer.
Reappearing spots are a part of the cleaning business. Realizing they are often booby traps instead of the fault of the cleaner helps provide a strong and professional position from which to solve them.
Cleaners will still have to face the inconvenience of dealing with a problem they did not create, but understanding what caused it makes the process go smoother.
Steve Marsh is the creator of the Be Competition Free Marketing Program. He is a 30-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an IICRC-approved instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. Marsh is a marketing and business consultant who provides a turn-key program for attracting better customers. For more information, log on to www.BeCompetitionFree.com.