Setting Boundaries for Success
“The customer is always right” was a phrase written by someone that never worked in the cleaning industry! Most consumers have little to no clue about how our industry actually runs and the different subspecialties that exist in the cleaning world, leading them to make perfectly valid requests of the totally wrong companies.
Different specialties, like maintenance cleaning, surface restoration, medical waste cleanup, and mold remediation, all have vastly different training, supplies, and pricing models, such that asking one to do the other’s work is like asking a Dermatologist to do brain surgery! This is why, no matter how awkward it feels, it is critical to practice the art of telling customers “no.”
There's a difference between cleaning some mold on window sills to cleaning a three bedroom apartment infested with the the fungi. One can be handled by a simple microfiber cloth and some bleach while the other requires special equipment.
It is critically important for employee safety and brand reputation to be able to kindly tell customers no, so your staff doesn't get sick doing things they are not trained on or provide the customer with subpar service. Setting boundaries and telling customers you can't perform certain services without making them feel stupid or making your business sound uncaring takes a lot of finesse and firm policies within your operations.
First, start with your own staff, making sure your cleaners are crystal clear on the limits of the services you provide, why it is unsafe for them to perform tasks they have not been trained for, and what to do if a customer requests or needs a service you do not offer.
There is no trickier a situation than telling a customer you will no longer provide a service your cleaner already did, even though they shouldn’t have! More often than not, the policy should be that they can only perform services on their job tickets, and the client needs to speak to the office to request additional services, agree to the fee, and then the office authorizes the cleaner to proceed.
Once you are sure your employees are on the same page, it’s time to get your customers there too. Start from a place of compassion and education. The customer is reaching out because they need help and should not be shamed for the condition of their property or for not knowing which companies do which tasks. Gently explain that while you would love to help them, their needs are beyond the scope of the services your company provides.
Use phrases that remove judgment about the property conditions to retain client dignity. Instead of, "your home is too dirty," it might be, "Our staff specializes in maintenance cleaning and is not trained in surface restoration. A service like ServePro will be able to give you the best results for your initial cleaning, and we would be thrilled to help maintain your home going forward after their visit.”
Pro Tip: Creating a quick referral list of companies in your area that do the work you can’t is a game changer for helping end conservations like this on a high! Telling a customer “no” is 100x easier when you can tell them which company will say yes.