Remembering our first Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) class brings back many fond memories.
The excitement of learning something fresh to take to our customers and dazzle them with our newfound brilliance was great.
However, a funny thing happened when we told customers about the wonderfulness of IICRC certification: They could not have cared less.
We were dumbfounded by their lack of understanding, knowledge and general idiotic behavior.
But, we then found out why they did not care: They expected it.
They expected us to be the ultimate professional, regardless of the certification, regardless of the industry and regardless of anything else.
It finally dawned on us that the customer, at the very least, expected me to know what we were doing in regards to their flooring or furnishings.
Believing, because we were certified, that the world would now beat a path to our door was ultimately our mistake.
Because of that mistake, we would go on to make several other mistakes involving a lack of understanding of exactly what our customers were looking for when purchasing cleaning and maintenance services.
What was discovered was a watershed moment for our company.
We found that they were not interested in the cleaning and maintenance process at all; they were only paying for the results of that effort.
Whether we used a broom or mop, autoscrubber or single disk rotary buffer, carpet extractor or dry absorbent media, they only wanted clean things when we finished.
The realization kicked in slowly, but firmly.
When selling services, whether certified or not, the customer only wants results and does not care how you achieve them.
They do not pay for our knowledge, certifications or general good looks — they pay for results.
We decided to become a results-based company.
Other ideas began to formulate in our minds of how we could get our customers to think about our company differently than our competitors.
We began to understand that our customers could feel and see our level of confidence in our cleaning protocols.
Because we were certified by the IICRC, we felt confident in our ability to know the precise application of cleaning power to be used on each floor we serviced.
This confidence was then sold to the customer, and customers became more comfortable with the choice of our company.
Our company began to sell only two things from those days forward: Comfort and confidence.
These were the only things our competitors were not also selling in the same markets.
The only reason we could sell those things was because of our certification training.
This training brought us the confidence to make the customer comfortable.
When we thought that the knowledge was the only thing we needed to secure the customers, we had made a calculated error in judgment.
We had to teach ourselves to use the certification process as a tool, just like a broom or extractor, to use in our confidence-building process to secure more customers.
We learned, through certification, to use that tool as nothing more than the tool it is: To help build a stronger company skill set in the marketplace.
The company with the strongest skills will usually win.
Don''t let the fog of training blind you to the real truth about certification.
It is just as necessary to have certifications as it is to have wands, hoses and cleaning tools.
Just remember how to use them effectively as a building block to success.
Dane Gregory is the commercial sales manager for Bridgewater Corporation, which owns Interlink Supply. He works with commercial cleaners to help them build their businesses by adding services without a lot of additional cost. He also helps them with technical aspects of cleaning carpet, tile and grout and stone surfaces. Gregory instructs classes for each floor surface as well as the Commercial Cleaning Initiative, which covers all these floor surfaces. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.