The year was 1968, and one of the most famous ad campaigns of all time had just been launched. Because of the touchy subject, it will never be equaled in the same industry again.
Philip Morris came up with the phrase “You have come a long way, baby,” intended to be only for the introduction of Virginia Slims cigarettes, but soon the nation used the phrase in everyday conversation, and it stuck.
For commercial carpet cleaners the phrase can mean that you have come a long way from marketing, to biding, to actually cleaning the hard-fought-for, regular, ongoing account. It is a “long way” from saying you’re going to do commercial work to actually landing accounts. So when you find yourself finally cleaning commercial carpet, you feel like you won a war or an NFL Championship, but you cannot stop there, as you want to keep this work year after year.
Getting jobs is very hard, but the real work is in keeping accounts. Yes, you have come a long way, but remembering where you came from will quickly sober you up. Realize you do not want to lose it now.
This month’s article focuses on what you can do to keep these valuable customers.
For our example, let’s use a company’s main corporate office and say you sold programed, six-times-a-year cleaning. In other words, you are doing some cleaning every two months.
You have broken your plan down to low-moisture clean the main walkways two times then extract the main walkways and low moisture clean all other areas, like offices, etc. After that, you will again low-moisture clean the main walkways two more times. And for your sixth cleaning, you plan an extraction of the entire office.
This is an example of a by-the-book, carpet mill-approved, effective plan. The first step to keeping this customer is setting up your communication system.
Give the customer the dates of each service and what you will do at each time. Email or call reminding them of the upcoming service three to five days beforehand. If there is a property management company involved, have a contact and email for them, as well, and include them in the correspondence. Ask if there are any spots or areas of concern that may need special attention. You can also include your crew leader in the emails, which insures no misunderstandings.
Of course, show up on time doing exactly what you said you would do. Have the crew put down any and all notes of interest on the job ticket. They may report that a door was locked or a spot did not come out as well as you had hoped — anything that is significant.
This job ticket needs to be the first thing either you or a salesperson looks at early in the morning. In fact, the job ticket needs to be read before your contact comes to the office so that you may send an email in the morning informing them how the job went and any problems encountered.
After your first service plan, a walkthrough with the customer within a day or two of the work should be performed. Many companies will do this walkthrough every time. During this time with the customer, really look at the carpet to determine your effectiveness. Even if the customer loves the job results, you are the expert and should plan any changes needed — whether it is doing more by soiled doorways or including other areas that need to be done next time.
For the next services, you should keep up the emails before and after. After the third service, perform a “quality control” walkthrough in which you use a form grade yourself and your company’s performance. This report should be sent to your contact with notes, as you want to be open book with nothing to hide.
In fact, you may make suggestions, such as changing the chemicals or adding pile lifting by doorways (at no additional charge). You can even let your contact know that your crews notes suggest the elevator lobby be extracted every time instead of twice a year as planned and you’ll now do it six times (you may charge extra for this).
During the year, you will also send out emails just to tell them what you are up to, not requiring any reply, but just offering company information, such as:
1. You held IICRC training for your entire staff.
2. You found important carpet mill and maintenance news.
3. You have had no job-related work comp claims (they’ll love this).
4. You donated to a charity in their name as a thank you for the business.
5. You wish them a happy Valentine’s Day (send flowers to the office).
6. You went to a conference (let them know if it was on cleaning, greening, facilities, etc.) and give them a quick note telling them what you learned and how it will help you better understand your business.
Become a resource for your contact; maybe they do not know a marble care expert or there is one rug in the lobby that needs to be sent out. It could even be that you know the best coffee service in the city, and let them know which it is.
Keep up the emails, the quality-control inspections and noticing things for your customer. Kitchens and coffee areas are often neglected, so make the suggestion that you would be happy to include heavy cleaning of them, including the inside of the refrigerator.
Maybe you saw a new carpet cleaning system or product. Ask their permission to try it out on the company’s carpet, and monitor the results. In essence, you should let them know you are paying attention to them and are anticipating their needs before they even know they have them.
A word about the janitorial companies in buildings you clean: Do not make anenemy out of the night cleaning company. Sometimes it is very difficult to like the night cleaning company, as they may even undermine your service by misreporting things to your contact. For instance, they might say you used a bonnet to clean last night when you never did. Stay positive with your contact, and perhaps meet with the janitorial supervisor, to let them know you want to work together and you have no plans of bidding or taking over the night cleaning.
A word about security personal: Never argue with them, even if they cannot find your name on the night roster and must turn you away. Some commercial carpet cleaning companies will even bring them a cup of coffee just to keep a good relationship.
Look! See! Observe! Communicate! You really have come a long way, baby; now do the things necessary to stay there.
Fred Geyen is president of the Geyen Group (www.GeyenGroup.com). His background includes commercial product sales and program development for residential, commercial and disaster restoration with ServiceMaster. He has a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED-AP) designation and is on the board of directors with the LMCCA. Geyen can be contacted at (612)799-5111.