Has this ever happened to you?
A potential customer finds you and your company online, possibly through a social media post. She goes to your website, likes what she sees and sends an email such as the one below:
“I have two bedrooms, a living room, den and a dining room that are all carpeted. How much will you charge me to clean my carpet?”
This puts a lot of carpet cleaning technicians in a tough spot. The customer wants a “ballpark figure,” but they don’t always provide enough information to give one.* For instance, some of the points she forgot to mention that could impact the charge include the following:
- Is this a house or a condo? (If it’s a condo, most likely the square footage will be less.)
- How soiled is the carpet?
- When was the last time the carpet was cleaned?
- Are there kids, and if so, how many?
- What color is the carpet?
- And of course, what is often the “biggie” of them all, do you have pets?
Back in the old days, when people used telephones and you received a message like this, most likely you dismissed it as a “price shopper,” or worse, a time-waster. After all, how often have you given an estimate over the phone never to hear from the prospect again?
Now that everything is done online with email, it’s a bit easier and certainly less time-consuming to reply by email, indicating “the charge could range from this to that,” and leave it at that.
But, carpet cleaning techs may be missing a very big opportunity by not following up on these inquiries and conducting a pre-inspection — actually visiting the client, seeing the carpet and giving an estimate.
Instead of dismissing them, look at these inquiries as the first step in getting a new client — and potentially a very loyal client at that. We do this by replying, either on the phone or online: “May I come over and do a pre-inspection? That way I can give you an exact estimate as to how much it will cost to clean your carpet.”
Benefits of the pre-inspection
Many carpet cleaning techs believe they simply do not have time to perform a pre-inspection, especially during busy times of the year. It could mean traveling halfway around town and spending a good 20 to 30 minutes with the prospect – all time that could be spent making money cleaning carpet.
That might be a bit shortsighted because there are many benefits to doing a pre-inspection, among them are the following:
- It weeds out the time-wasters. If they do not respond to your offer to conduct a pre-inspection, unless they already selected someone to clean their carpet, most likely they were just wondering how much the service might cost without any real plan to hire your services.
- It preconditions the customer. As you present yourself to the customer as an astute professional, someone that knows carpeting and knows the science and art of cleaning carpet, you are no longer a stranger in her home. Instead, you have conditioned her. She now realizes you are a professional that can make her home cleaner, healthier and more pleasant to live in.
- It helps you evaluate the condition of the carpet. Now you can see firsthand just how soiled the carpet is and what kind of soiling you may be dealing with if you are hired. It also helps answer some of the other questions we brought up earlier. Find out if there are children in the house, pets and the color of the carpet, and ask the potential client when the carpets were last cleaned.
- It prepares you for the job. Let’s assume you are hired. With the pre-inspection, you already know the condition of the carpet, what cleaning solutions will likely be needed and what types of soiling you are dealing with, and you have an idea of how the rooms are laid out, where furniture is placed, etc. And unless you are using a recycling carpet extractor, which require few solution dump/refills, this gives you an opportunity to find several water outlets and drains in different areas of the residence.
- It offers opportunities for upsells. You now have the opportunity to present upsells such as ways to keep the carpet cleaner longer by suggesting that once the carpet is cleaned, a protectant can be applied. Or, if when walking through the living room you notice the furniture should also be cleaned, there’s another upsell.
In many cases, a client is more likely to say yes to upsells — and feel more comfortable about doing it — if they know well in advance that you are suggesting it ahead of time. When technicians suggest an upsell after just completing the carpet cleaning and without a pre-inspection, the customer typically feels pressured to make a decision on the spot. In some cases, they will just ask how much and say yes. But in other cases, they will automatically say they have to “think about it” — which usually means no — just because they feel pressured. The pre-inspection gives them a little time to reflect on the suggestion, and very often they will see that what you have suggested will benefit them.
- It provides the exact price. The pre-inspection eliminates any surprises. For some reason, even when you tell a customer that an estimate is a ballpark estimate, they have a tendency to want to hold you to that estimate. And if you can’t honor it, that’s an unwarranted mark against you before you even start. The pre-inspection eliminates this. You can give your customer an exact price, and if the charge is competitive and they are impressed with you, there is a very good chance this customer is yours.
*The term “ballpark figure” is actually a relatively new term. It was first recorded in the 1960s by NASA referring to a “range of approximation” as to when and where a spacecraft would land, e.g. “it would land somewhere within the ballpark but exactly where in the ballpark we do not know.” The Wall Street Journal first used the term to estimate a range of numbers, for instance an estimate of a company’s earnings, in 1967.
Doug Berjer works for CFR (continuous recycling extractors) and is a frequent writer on carpet cleaning and water conservation issues. He can be reached through his company website at www.cfrcorp.com