Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Letters To The Editor

July 29, 2011

Editor''s note:

A recent discussion on the Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online Bulletin Board pertained to turning down business.

That discussion of breaking the bad news to a potential client follows below.

Posted by:
Ed Samson

A current, happy customer referred us to a medical office that is not happy with their cleaning service.

I toured the facility and found it spotless; the floors were shiny with no streaks, the window blinds were dust free, etc.

When I asked what the problems were, all the office manager could point to was a little dust on the sill of a glass partition.

This account would be a headache no matter how much I charged them.

I want to provide a reason for saying no other than “We can’t do as well.”


Robert Jess

Sometimes, when I see an account like this, regardless of what they say, I pretty much believe the cleaners dump them.

Now, for them to hide that info, it could be the reason for not paying.

I would say, “Sorry, but we just signed with a big account and now we’re booked solid for awhile. Business has been very busy; we will give you a call when we have an opening.”

Ed Samson

I did just that, as it upholds our image of good service while keeping the door open.

I hadn’t thought about them being dumped by the cleaning service, but that could be it.

Peter Weiss

I think you should have done everything that you could to get this job and then just keep an eye on the dusty windowsills and other issues and make some profit.

There are good accounts that make little profit and bad accounts that are very profitable.

I didn’t know that everyone was so well-off that these accounts aren’t worth their time anymore.

Ed Samson

I am very happy to be in a position where I can turn down work that will cause me too much grief.

I’ll turn down any building with a lot of vinyl composition tile (VCT) to be maintained, and I’ll turn down an account if the owner/manager is too neurotic.

Life is too short to worry about things I don’t like doing.

I’ll keep a low-profit account if I like the people and give up a high-profit account if it requires too much hand-holding.

Peter Weiss

So, you will turn down a building with a lot of VCT — regardless of what their price is?

You might want to consider hiring a manager, as they can do the hand-holding for you while you cash your checks.

Ed Samson

We cleaned a church that put up a new building with 35 VCT classrooms.

I declined that one as well as two other churches for similar reasons.

I have a part-time manager who handles a lot of that stuff.

But, most people don’t do floor work to the degree of perfection I would like, so I just avoid as much as possible.

If I hired a full-time manager, I would need more business just to break even, and I’m happy with what I have.

When you get to my age, hopefully you, too, will be able to pick and choose the work you want to do — or maybe none at all.

Peter Weiss

Maybe at a certain age, that will happen to me as well.

If the numbers are right, I cannot imagine turning down any potential business.

Even the customers I like will all cancel one day.

Robert Jess

I will turn down an account if I think they’re going to be a pain with which to work.

I like making money just like the next guy, but I draw a limit.

I don’t care about the size, floor or carpets.

The ones I won’t deal with are what I call “bully accounts.”

They are so hard into micromanagement that they try to apply it to vendors to the extreme.

The worst part is that they’re usually the cheap ones.

Joel Daniel

I’ve seen some jobs that were really clean and the prospect was talking about filth, etc.

So, with a few gentle questions, I surmised that the prospect was the problem and not the cleaning provider.

I get out or, depending on the feel of the situation, ask if their standards are too high for most people.

I can appreciate high standards, but revenue should be reasonably commensurate with those standards.

Questions I always ask or touch upon prior to the use of contractors include the level of success with those contractors and the prospect’s general opinions of cleaning issues, why they choose contractors as opposed to in-house staffing, etc.