January 8, 2015
The best way to understand your maid service is as long term relationship. Like all any relationship, it will only last if both parties play their part well. Here we describe the how to be a good maid service client. Good clients are happier, incur less switching costs, and tend to have their expectations met consistently.
Over the past 8 years, Kalee's Cleaning has learned a lot of hard lessons about what it takes to be a great maid service. In that time, we have seen all kinds of clients under a variety of circumstances. When it comes to what we call "Client Quality," there is no doubt that the well-know 80/20 principle (opens new tab) applies. 80% of our clients are a joy to serve, around 10% are more challenging from a customer service perspective and the the last 10% are absolutely baffling to us.
We have given quite a bit of thought to the concept of client satisfaction as it relates to this last 10%. How can we make them consistently happy? Is it possible? To what lengths should we go? In our attempt to answer these questions, we have formulated a little framework (shows image) to help us understand our role in these relationships. You can see the framework in a new page here (opens new tab).
The maid client-service relationship is an interesting affair. It is both personal and impersonal. It is transactional but experienced in a very personal space (the client's home). The maid service, for primarily economic reasons, treats the relationship as a long-term affair. The client, for reasons of convenience, would also prefer a long-term relationship if their expectations are consistently met.
The greatest challenge for a maid service is to consistently meet the expectations of hundreds of clients, all of which have different expectations. It is worth noting that client expectations are multi-dimensional. Even if all clients expected the same post-cleaning result (which they don't), they would still widely vary in their expectations regarding price, perceived value, service timing, pet management, cleaning product preferences, garbage disposal methodologies, crew parking locations, entry door, access method, egress method, billing and payment method, and preferred communication method.
We have found that clients will change service providers if their expectations are disappointed more than twice. It doesn't seem to matter on which expectation facet the disappointment occurs or why. Team got lost on the way their first time? That is one. Put the master bath rugs in the hall bathroom? That is two. At this point, any further error can result in a schedule cancellation. We have lost many clients in Boulder because our teams made inaccurate allocations to the trash, recycling, and compost bins. We have lost clients because "my [40 year old] house just wasn't sparkling," because "it was clean, but it just didn't feel clean," and because "the place the dog lays had dog hair on it when I got home." "Do you know the dog was in the house when the team left?" "Well, yes, but I don't think it should have been that hairy..." Okay.
On the side of the maid service, there is are only three expectations: the team will be able to access the interior of the home, the condition and size will be approximately as described, and the client will pay on time. We can represent this expectational disparity graphically like this (shows image). You can see The Scale of Expectations in a new page here (opens new tab)
Both service and client benefit from the long-term relationship but the quantity and quality of their expectations for that relationship are vastly different. Given that disparity, is it any wonder there are so few happy endings?
We think it is possible and desirable for the client-service relationship to improve. The best cleaning services (opens new tab) bend over backwards to satisfy their clients and have few expectations of them. If you compare this to almost any other service firm, the difference in service level, required pre-service activities, and expected client behavior is dramatic.
For these reasons, we think at least part of the answer to a better and longer client-service relationship lies in a modification of client attitudes and expectations, at least for those members of the baffling 10%.
The unrivaled number one challenge for all house cleaning businesses is staffing. Finding, hiring, training, and retaining people with the appropriate attitudes and behaviors to do a physically hard, less-than-glamorous job is enormously difficult. The reason you are not a professional maid is the same reason people like you are not professional maids. If you expect the people who clean your house to be as capabable and intelligent as you are, you are going to be disappointed.
A house cleaning service is not going to remodel your kitchen. If your expectations include any sort of aesthetic miracle, you may not be happy after your cleaning. No amount of scrubbing is going to restore the factory glow to 30 year old linoleum. Your home will not be transformed, though it wil be cleaned and sanitized.
What a cleaning service is designed to provide you is a clean house that you did not have to clean yourself. We recongize the personal nature of our service and we strive to cause positive emotions in our clients. However, our training and equipment is designed to delivery a truly clean house in a reasonably efficient manner.
Your real expectations are the number one determinant of your satisfaction. This is true whether or not your cleaning service is even aware of those expectations. Before you schedule a cleaning, take a minute to think about what you really are expecting. Then tell your cleaning company what that is. If they are any good, they will tell you exactly which of those expectations they can meet, which they can't, and at what cost. Frequently, we can meet all of a client's expectations. Just as frequently, when we give them a price for all those things, they start shortening their list.
The suspicion around here is that while a client is willing to trade some features for lower costs, they sometimes fail to simultaneously lower thier expectations. This makes them nearly impossible to please because what they say and how they feel are different.
Higher customization leads to more variables, which lead to more chances for error. Put another way, if your list of specifications for your cleaning is long, you should be prepared to be more flexible about those specifications. The trouble is, clients with lots of specifications tend to have difficulty being flexible (which is why there are so many specs in the first place).
Company policies protect everybody. Recently, a team leader did not clean a house because there were construction materials laying about the main level and workmen in the home. She knew she would not be able to produce a satisfactory result for the client under those conditions. In compliance with company policy, she left the house uncleaned. The client called us, confused about why her house did not get cleaned. She told us "We are just painting one bathroom downstairs."
A picture of that house is here (shows image). You tell us if she was just "painting a bathroom downstairs." In this case, like many others, our policy protected our team from a miserable day at an already hard job, it protected us from an unhappy client, and it protected the client from feeling frustrated that their house still looked trashed after paying for a cleaning.
You can see the "just painting one bathroom downstairs" pictures in a new page here (opens new tab)
In a service with so many variables influencing outcomes and perceptions of quality, things do go wrong. Sometimes things may have seemed to go wrong that just went different. For any relationship to work, the communication must be two-way. Be open minded to hear what the company has to say about the situation. We guarantee they did not let you down on purpose.
Having a candid, two-way conversation with your house cleaning company does not mean they should be making excuses for poor performance. They should absolutely take full responsibility for your satisfaction. However, you probably don't have all the information either.
After a perceived negative experience at certain service, whether you realize it or not, your expectations have been lowered. The new service has all the same challenges and makes similiar mistakes. They may or may not be doing a materially better job but your expectations are definitely lower than when you fired the last service.
Sometimes we get schedule cancellations that are quite mysterious. It is like the person cancelling is giving a reason, but the reason doesn't make sense. For instance, a client may cancel because they locked us out of a house or because the kitchen counter had food "all over it after they cleaned." "Was anyone home after the cleaning?" "Well, yes, my two teenagers were home but they didn't make the mess..." Okay.
We are sure these clients had a reason for cancelling. We just can't figure out what it was. Are we having a service delivery system failure and they are being non-confrontational? Did the wife schedulue the cleaning without first talking to her husband? Are our prices too high? We diligently track all complaints and cancellations. Your honest feedback and input helps us get better so we can better serve you.
So many of our sales calls end in a compromise between what a client needs/wants and what they are willing to pay for. We also think this is one of the biggest causes of client dissatisfaction. Here is how it happens:
A client calls in, lets call her Joanne, and really wants to get a her house cleaned. We speak with her and answer all her questions. She loves us, she is ready to schedule the weekly cleanings of her dreams. We tell her "Great, that will $[some number] the first time and $[some number] each time after that. What day of the week would you like your cleanings?" "..." Silence. Then "...oh, I didn't realize it would be that much..." Joanne then proceeds to whittle off value added service to get the cost down: "Okay, well, how 'bout we take off the kids' play room, the basement, and the guest bathroom?"
What just happened? This client is unable or unwilling to pay for what they want. Therefore, everytime we come to clean Joanne's house, she feels she is paying a lot of money (because cleaning from a company is never really cheap) but she is not getting what she really wants. As a result, each time we come, on some level, Joanne feels a little let down, and perhaps a little ripped off. She is not getting ripped off, of course. But she is trading her hard earned money for something she wants, but is not getting it because she is not trading quite enough of it. We are happy to take small-ish jobs, but we hate taking incomplete jobs. They almost never are a good fit for us.
We totally understand how this happens. We are not wealthy and we probably couldn't afford our own cleaning service at full pop. We certainly don't mind that we had to adjust our program to meet her budget constraints. However, we do mind that she will never be completely happy with the service we work so hard to provide her.
If you live in or near Boulder, Broomfield, Erie, Lafayette or Louisville, Colorado and have any questions about how to be a better maid service client feel free to contact us.
If you are not 100% satisfied, we will return and make it right. If you are still not satisfied, you will receive a full refund with our thanks.
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