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Summertime Customer Service Tips for Cleaning Companies

Summertime Customer Service Tips for Cleaning Companies

As we settle into the dog days of summer, it's the perfect moment to crank the AC and turn up the heat on your customer service skills. While summer can be a quiet season for cleaning companies, it's the calm before the back-to-school storm and holiday tsunami, so it’s the perfect time to strengthen customer relationships and polish up your phone skills before the chaos sets in.

Summertime presents a unique opportunity to hone your team's customer service chops not only because business is slow but also because it tends to be a time of year when you're in contact with your customers more frequently anyways.

Customers calling in to reschedule cleans around their vacations or asking for additional service because their in-laws are coming to visit gives you plenty of authentic occasions to experiment, refine, and perfect your script.

Best of all, these interactions where the customer needs something from you and is in a good mood anticipating their upcoming summer fun usually make them more hospitable to longer conversations. As perfect as these conditions sound, though, unfortunately, they’re equally as fleeting, so let’s jump right into how to maximize this brief window to make your business a customer service powerhouse before the bloom falls off the summer rose!

lady on the phone taking notes for customer onboarding

Setting the Welcome Mat

The onboarding conversation with a new client serves as the first impression of your service and your best chance to start this long-term relationship on the right foot. It's crucial to make this conversation as informative and reassuring as possible while focusing on teaching the client how to get the most out of your service long term.

Having a standardized protocol for this welcome discussion can make a world of difference in setting the right tone for the relationship and ensuring every customer is truly set up for success.

The conversation should be a comprehensive dialogue that:

        • Sets expectations
        • Identifies the client's cleaning priorities and pet peeves
        • Establishes a realistic schedule
        • Instructs the customer on how to provide constructive feedback

Simple things like selecting realistic arrival windows, asking customers for key or garage access to their property, and explaining your time limit for rescheduling to avoid charges can reduce mountains of potential chaos later on as your business gets busier.

It’s easy to promise to be there at 9 AM in the quiet summer, but the slammed schedule and increased traffic of the winter holidays will have you thanking your past self for taking the time to talk the customer into a wider arrival window!

Every company has its own policies that should be reviewed during customer orientation, but what is universal among all cleaning businesses is that your cleaners are not mind readers! Asking clients point blank what things are most important to them and make a room feel clean to them, followed by asking for the things that drive them nuts, can save your cleaners months of aggravation.

Document any insights, worded in a flattering manner without judgment, so they can be printed and shared with anyone that cleans that client's property going forward.

The most important expectation every cleaning company has to set is that there is no such thing as the right way to clean! What is “clean enough” is different for everyone, which means it takes time to find the “right” clean for each client.

It’s critical to teach customers that hiring a cleaning service is like hiring a private chef, where each client likes their food more or less salty, but their personal taste doesn't suddenly make the chef a bad cook.

Explain to clients that it will take time, often up to three cleans, to learn their personal taste, and that only happens if they are honest with their feedback.

hands holding a smiley face between them for customer feedback

Constructive Feedback is a Two-Way Street

Speaking of honest feedback, this is one of the most unexpectedly challenging aspects of running a successful cleaning business because it requires the company to overcome years of societal programming! Most customers feel awkward giving really honest feedback, fearing they're offending someone or getting their cleaners in trouble.

Most clients, without help to change their ways, will suffer in silence till they blow their top or silently slip away and cancel the service altogether! This is a tragedy for everyone involved, as usually, the cleaner was fully capable of making the simple changes to take the client from disappointed to thrilled, but instead, they’re forced to start from scratch with a new company due to their reticence to self-advocate.

The key to breaking this cycle of silence is by arming the customer with new language that allows them to express their needs judgment and guilt-free. As we explained above, the personal chef analogy is extremely powerful. We can use it to explain that not only does it take time to learn their tastes, but that having different tastes, like not enjoying spicy food, doesn’t reflect badly on the chef.

Empower your customer by role modeling for them the questions you will ask them and how they can answer them without passing judgment on their cleaner.

Phrases like, "What did you love about the cleaning, and what would you prefer we adjust to your taste next time?" allow the client to answer without having to say things were “bad, sloppy, etc.” Modeled responses like, “The kitchen overall looked great, but I prefer my fridge be really shiny, so if they could polish it even more next time, that would be great!" help your clients express their preferences without feeling like they insulted your team's hard work, making honest dialogue 1000X easier.

Remember, though, for this to work, you have to teach yourself to receive this feedback with enthusiasm, not defensiveness and apologies. Instead of, “I’m so sorry we didn’t clean the refrigerator well enough,” try an answer like, “Thank you so much for telling me this, as this is just the sort of feedback we need. Our cleaner will be thrilled to know exactly what you’re looking for at your next clean!”

The more comfortable you make it to get feedback, the more your clients will open up, allowing you to keep that client for years to come.

woman sitting at a desk with her planner counting money

Tipping the Scale Towards More Tips

In case no one has broken this to you yet, let me lay it out plainly: Yes! Tipping is part of customer service, and if you aren’t actively promoting tipping, you're leaving some of the most important money of your business on the table!

Simply put, employees pick jobs based on their total pay, including tips. Tipping is customary for residential and hotel cleaners, and those tips can increase their wages by as much as 20%. If tips aren’t steadily coming in, it puts way more pressure on the business to increase wages to keep competitive with other hourly jobs in the area.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds, though, as raising rates on cleaning customers has its limits, especially when your customer is comparison shopping. So at the end of the day, you end up losing margin if you want to keep your employees long-term and can’t convince customers to tip.

Getting people to tip isn’t as easy as it sounds either, as it requires a lot of customer service finesse, not to sound greedy or entitled. You want your customers to feel good about tipping, knowing they are rewarding truly excellent service, not out of obligation.

You also want to make sure not to make them feel guilty about it if they can’t afford to drop a big tip every clean. The trick is to subtly work the tip pitch into your existing conversations about billing and feedback! When asking your customers for honest feedback, try phrases like, "We never want our cleans to be just fine. Our goal is for you to be so thrilled with our service that you'll be diving in your wallet looking for $20 bills to tip our cleaners!".

When discussing billing, you can casually mention, "Just to confirm, you'll be paying us every two weeks by credit card. If you ever want to set up a recurring tip on the card, just let us know! If you prefer to leave tips in cash, that is wonderful too, just remember the only rule is no tipping unless you genuinely loved your cleaning!”

someone writing reviews on their phone

Rave Reviews and Referrals

Online reviews and referrals are like gold dust in the digital age. They not only improve your business's visibility but also act as a shield against the occasional unreasonable irate client. The problem is spontaneous acts of referral and review aren’t nearly as common as people believe, as most people are only truly motivated to leave reviews on their own when they’re mad!  

If you want a glowing online digital reputation, you have to farm those reviews, and summer is the perfect time to start planting.

Gently remind your clients of the power they wield with a positive review. Encourage them to share their positive experiences on online platforms and refer your services to their friends, colleagues, and family.

Word-of-mouth is a potent tool in this industry, as satisfied customers are truly your best brand ambassadors. Make it a point to ask for online reviews and referrals regularly. Each positive review not only boosts your reputation but increases the likelihood of closing every lead that enters the sales cycle (when’s the last time you hired a company, even one your friend recommended, without Googling them? Exactly!)

The key is timing and delivery! As a review farmer, you till your soil by telling your customers from day one how important their honest feedback is. You fertilize the soil by calling and emailing the customer regularly to ask for their feedback and acting on it with enthusiasm. You know your online review is ripe when you call the customer to check in, and they tell you how consistently amazing your cleaner is.

To harvest, at that moment, simply tell the customer, “Thank you so much for saying that! Melissa really is amazing, isn’t she? Would you mind doing me a huge favor? Can you go on Google and write exactly what you just said in a review and mention Melissa by name? Being a cleaner can be thankless work sometimes, and seeing her clients rave about her online would really lift her spirits and help her get more customers!”  

When they say yes, tell them you’ll be watching for it so you can print it out and post it on your brag board for her and her coworkers to see, creating a sense of urgency to do it fast. This usually works like a charm, but if you need more, tell customers you’re running a bonus program where your cleaners get $30 bonuses for every new online review that mentions them. At that point, they’d have to be an ogre not to follow through!

a cleaning checklist for setting boundaries for cleaning customers

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.”

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.

happy woman sitting in her clean home drinking coffee

Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

Customer service, like any other skill, improves with practice. Creating a quick reference guide for you and your team with a bullet-pointed list of key catchphrases and topics that you can post near your workspace is critical during this skill-building stage.

Eventually, with enough practice, you won’t even need to look at the lists anymore. When the high-pressure fall season arrives, these discussions will seem second nature, ensuring a seamless customer service experience.

Your team will sound like seasoned professionals, and your online reviews will already be brimming with praises, just in time for when you need them most! Remember, great customer service is like a great clean—when done right, it leaves a lasting impression.

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