The MOT Checklist

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By Steve Toburen

You have been in business for a few (or more) years. That’s good!

Thanks to your superb work ethic, and no doubt your sparkling personality, you are busy, busy, busy! And you are making a good living as an owner/operator. That’s all great, but, honestly… do you enjoy “pushing the wand” as much as you did 10 or 20 years ago? How about 10 or 20 years from now?

“That’s not for me,” you decide. So, you resolve that it is time to “get off the truck.”

Your challenges

As part of your “get off the truck” resolution, you must hire employees. You do that and show them how to start the machine, watch them run the wand, mix chemicals, and even teach them how to do the paperwork. And you send him or her out the door with a rousing, “Go git ‘em!”

Not so fast.

With this approach, almost invariably, disaster looms ahead. You’ll face complaining customers, lost clients, negative online reviews, and high employee turnover due to burned out technicians.

What’s the problem? After all, you verified your technician is technically competent.

Here’s the deal…

Any service transaction, including carpet cleaning and restoration, is subject to the 80 percent principle, which is: “80 percent of how the homeowner decides if your company did a good job or a bad job is based on how they feel about the person actually doing the work.” In other words, to create delighted customer cheerleaders in the cleaning and restoration industries, you must focus on building relationships with your clients.

Even the hardest-working, most-skilled technicians are doomed to failure if they ignore the emotional dynamics of working on site with clients. Ouch.

Let’s analyze the challenges you face.

Challenge #1:

Especially for first-time customers, their initial primary emotion is fear. It’s not the best way to start a professional relationship! Homeowners often feel invaded, trapped, and vulnerable with an unknown technician in their home. But now the plot gets more complicated.

Challenge #2:

Your (usually young) technician’s primary emotion is also fear. After all, he or she is ringing the bell of a home that may be worth more than they will earn in an entire lifetime.

Challenge #3:

Even worse… your technician is clueless on how to build a bond with someone two or three times his age and 20 times his income level. After all, they have nothing in common with the customer, and yet the 80 percent principle states that building a professional relationship with this customer is infinitely more important than the pH of your prespray or the pint-to-amp ratio of your dehumidifiers.

Does that sinking feeling in your stomach mean you are condemned to grow old on the truck? No. You can build a business that will run without you.

Steve’s solution: The MOT Checklist

After years of agony as a cleaning and restoration contractor, I learned that employee/ customer relationships are based on positive “moments of truth” or, as we like to say, a MOT. A MOT is any point in which a customer has contact with a company and forms an (usually subconscious) opinion.

These little MOTs are cumulative, as in they add up (or subtract) in a customer’s subconscious. I realized there were hundreds in any cleaning job, and thousands in restoration jobs, of these MOT checklist items. I programmed in MOTs for my techs to deliver to the customer.

For example, I simply divided a standard residential carpet, upholstery or tile and grout cleaning into seven different “acts.” Just like a script for a stage play.

Act I: Introduction

Do you know how your employees introduce themselves? Remember that the first two “doorstep minutes” are the most important part of the job.

write to me toburen july mot checklistAct II: Ice breaker

Your customer, especially the first time they meet you, is nervous, suspicious, and scared. Remember you can’t just burst in to the home.

Act III: Customer interview

Homeowners want to feel in control. To create this feeling for them, ask for a tour, and request they show you any special concerns.

Act IV: Planning the attack

Now explain to the homeowners your cleaning process and how you will take care of their home. Ask for permission to begin the work.

Act V: Cleaning presentation

Pick the dirtiest area, one that they were most concerned about on your tour, and clean a “magic square.” Call them over to admire the incredible contrast. Now, get to work.

Act VI: Post inspection

Do another walkthrough with your client. If the customer isn’t home, see if you have permission to call them on their cell phone to pre-orient them on the results of the job.

Act VII: Thank you and goodbye

Do you know how your techs ask to be paid? Or how they say goodbye? Do you think you should?

I wrote the MOT checklist stage play up in the form of a checklist, with specific “action MOTs” and taped it on each technician’s clipboard.

The result

Once my technicians had this step-by-step MOT checklist to guide them in a customer’s home, they felt more in control and weren’t as nervous or fearful. Plus, my MOT checklist reminded my employees to focus on building a great relationship with the homeowner instead of just doing the job.

Once my workers had this emotional road map to guide the technician-homeowner relationship, they loosened up. My techs even started enjoying interacting with their customers, and employee turnover improved dramatically.

Even better… homeowners loved my techs — and their work — so they often became delighted cheerleaders and valuable referral sources. Complaints declined, and my marketing budget declined as well.

Our company became known as the “most expensive carpet cleaner in town but worth it,” and that is exactly the niche I wanted to fill.

Developing written procedures and systems like this residential MOT checklist allowed me to build a very profitable cleaning and restoration company that ran smoothly with me… or without me.


Steve Toburen started and ran a world-class cleaning and restoration firm for over 20 years. He is now the director of training for Jon-Don’s Strategies for Success program. Steve also founded HomeFrontSuccess.com, a resource portal with training programs for contractors working in customer’s homes. Reach Steve at [email protected].

Cleanfax Staff

Cleanfax provides cleaning and restoration professionals with information designed to help them manage and grow their businesses.

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