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Keep them coming back

September 19, 2010
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You may have some janitorial contracts where company policy dictates open bidding before the year’s end, and keeping your existing accounts can take every bit as much time, energy and creativity as landing a new client.

One account I had for six years had my competitors in a tizzy. They worked hard all year long — for six years — trying to steal my customer from right under my nose.

In all fairness, I can hardly blame them for going after my biggest customer — it was one of the meatiest, most profitable accounts in the city. Ten buildings scattered throughout the city, and the best part: Price was not an issue!

Image was the most important aspect of maintaining the buildings, and the client was willing to pay the price to have quality staff — day porters — at high wages. We were given total facility maintenance for more than 300,000 square feet per night. It was a contract cleaning company’s dream come true…

Setting the stage

Whew! If your company survived another round of year-end contract reviews, congratulations for all the accounts you are carrying into 2005. Kudos to you who may have even beat out some competitors who continually solicit your client with sweet talk and smooth promises of better service, higher quality, and shiny floors! Isn’t the thrill of the chase — racing against our competitors — an adrenaline rush?

So, how can you keep your customers renewing for the next six years? Ten years? Start with a full commitment this month to operate such a professional business that your customer can’t replace you, because of the service, quality and extras your company offers.

Be available 24 hours a day. Response time to any issue should be no longer than one hour. Customers want instant solutions to their problems.

In today’s fast-paced society, no one wants to wait to have something done. We have been spoiled by technology such as e-mail and wireless Internet, and find that we no longer have to wait to get problems solved or information we need. That carries through to the cleaning industry.

I found having a floater on call 24 hours a day can truly help keep a customer’s temper at a minimum when problems occur. Think of your floater as a firefighter — he or she must be ready and willing to jump out of bed from a deep sleep and put out all fires to save the company from disaster.

Cover all bases

Inspect the quality of cleaning and document it, and have your customer routinely sign a customer satisfaction form. Good documentation is a solid paper trail confirming the cleaning performance done by your staff.

Documentation is your only proof that your buildings are clean and that your customer is really happy with the service you provide. For example, one difficult customer — who changed his mind faster than a two-year-old toddler — taught us to request a written opinion on the standard of cleaning through his eyes.

The old adage of "No news is good news" doesn’t apply to the cleaning industry.

We copied the documentation concept from United Parcel Service (UPS): We soon began to require a customer signature and overall satisfaction rating, upon completion of an inspection or additional tasks. A standardized form — highlighting service performed, date, signature line and overall satisfaction rate — is easy to do on the computer.

You get out what you put in

Protect your company when it comes time to justify your customer renewing or extending your contract for another year.

Keep your buildings clean, and deliver everything you promised on your contracts.

Don’t get caught with your pants down. If you aren’t delivering top-of-the-line service on a consistent basis, you deserve to be fired from the account.

I have found it may only take three to four weeks without inspections for the quality of cleaning to drop to unsatisfactory levels.

Show your face often to the customer and ask how things are going.

It is so easy to fire someone you never see! I have lost clients simply because they disliked not seeing my face in their building.

As your company expands, it is at times impossible to run the day-to -day operations and still be visiting customers in the field. If you can’t do that, it is time to clone yourself for your business, and have a responsible party who will meet their needs each time a problem arises.

Bear in mind that having good staff who are well liked by your clients keeps your customers happy. Those are the employees who you want to hold accountable for cleaning quality, and make sure they are rewarded with raises, perks and other incentives — because the customer obviously enjoys having them at its jobsite.

Laura Dellutri is a successful building service contractor, public speaker, author and cleaning consultant who is fondly known as "The Healthly Housekeeper" and has appeared numerous times on HGTV, The Discovery Channel, and all the major television networks. She welcomes feedback, so send e-mail to DELLUTRIL@aol.com or laura@healthyhousekeeper.com. Visit her website at www.cleaningtrainingcenter.com.

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