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Management And Training

Extra Services For Clients

September 19, 2010
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Editor''s note:

As a service provider, it is natural to have a desire to do whatever is necessary to keep your clients happy.

However, there comes a point when the extra services you provide out of goodwill hinder the services you are paid to perform.

The question soon becomes: Do you continue to perform extra services simply to satisfy your customers, or do you stop the add-ons because they are not part of your service agreement?

Recently, an insightfully interesting post on the Bulletin Board sparked a discussion of this potential dilemma.

Posted By:
Carlos Morales

So, over the years, some of our staff have done dishes and emptied coffee grounds from coffee makers as a courtesy to office tenants, even though it''s not in their scope of work.

I appreciate the fact that they go beyond the call of duty.

The thing is, when that janitor leaves for whatever reason and a replacement is sent to the location that does not normally do dishes, we get complaints that staff is not doing their job.

I then have the task of having to explain to the tenant why it is that their coffee mug was not washed.

Some don''t get it, some understand, but mostly all frown upon my explanation.

Has anyone experienced a similar situation, and how have you handled it?

Ken Galo

I have had cleaners who went around and collected cups from cubicles, offices and conference rooms, and then washed them.

I have also had them water plants, set up the coffee for the next morning, etc.

Every time we find it going on, we stop it for exactly the reason you stated.

Once it becomes part of the routine, you can''t stop without getting a ton of complaints and issues.

Joseph Russell

There are always questions as to what you want to accept as part of "your job."

These are some areas:

We keep bottled water dispensers filled and clean

We do empty coffee [grinds] from the machine — it''s trash

We do not wash out coffee mugs

We do not do dishes, although in years gone by, we did wash out ashtrays.

We don''t think we should have to clean vending machines, because we don''t get a dime from the vending company.

That should be done when the vending company stocks the machine. But, sometimes we do it anyway.

What you take on regarding gratis jobs is up to you, there are a thousand little things that need doing, and really, I look at it like this: Do they consistently pay me on time; are they a reasonable customer or a royal pain in the butt?

You know when a customer appreciates your effort.

Keep in mind that if you have a customer whose policy is to put the job out for bid periodically, all your extras are just dust in the wind.

Tim Herr

I empty the coffee filter and coffee [grinds] sometimes so we don''t always have to change trash bags.

If we don''t, it''s the first thing dumped in the bag in the morning.

We will empty hole punch machines for the employees that haven''t figured out how to dump the thing without spilling it all over the floor.

We do it to save time and ourselves a little work. If it weren''t for that, we wouldn''t do it.

I''ve had building occupants tell me that the staff can clean out their own cups. They are adults. It''s the least they can do.

I usually want to say, "Wanna bet?" I could name about 10 more things they could do.

Ed Samson

We''ve had the problem in the past. I don''t allow our employees to wash dishes for the reasons you stated.

Besides, when you start, then everyone leaves their dishes and pretty soon you have a whole sink full of dishes with food stuck on them.

The only exception is when the customer requests it up front and we have it built into the cost.

Chris Wheeler

Sure, this happens all the time. It goes under the heading, "Gray area cleaning tasks," in the big database-in-the-sky.

As to how to handle it, I''ve simply pointed out that washing dishes is not a part of the service, and wasn''t that employee just wonderful? Now, if you wish to make that a part of the contract, we can discuss it.

Over the years, I''ve been amazed at what some expect from a janitor — in both good and bad ways.

It''s what makes job descriptions, contracts and bids both necessary and sublimely irrational.

Melissa Jent

The one that gets me is they want us to change burnt out light bulbs that require a 20-foot ladder in order to get to them.

How is this relevant to cleaning? That, to me, would be maintenance work.

No, we do not do dishes — at all — we don''t even suggest it for the reason stated: You get there and there are a sink full of dishes from the luncheon they just had that have sat there all day and night.

Nobody bothered to rinse off the food so now you have to chisel it off.

Really, as a person, would you want someone that just cleaned the toilets to clean your coffee cup?

John Markey

We sell the service; if the client wants to pay for it, we''ll do it.

Hand dishwashing, cleaning the coffee machine, loading a dishwasher, changing light bulbs, whatever … we will include it in our service agreement and charge for it.

We also will write-up associates that regularly do more cleaning than we have in our service agreement.

Why? Exactly for the reason given above: Once the client becomes accustom to an "extra" they then come to expect it.

And when the regular cleaner is out sick, on vacation or leaves our company, then the client is unhappy.

We''ve lost a client because of that exact reason.

Melissa Jent

Ok, now I''m curious.

How do you charge monthly for light bulbs to be changed or dishes to be washed?

There is no way of knowing how many lights are going to be burned out or how many dishes they are going to leave.

If they expect you to do the dishes, they will go overboard more and more every day with what they leave.

When you start out, you find a few cups in the sink.

Then word gets around that you are doing it and the next thing you know, the whole office is putting their dirty cups, plates and silverware in the sink until you find yourself spending an hour or more doing them.

I never agree to doing dishes. I''ve been there and made that mistake once and will never do it again.

We clean the coffee makers and dump the [grinds], but we do not clean the coffee pots.

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