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Discrimination and Carpet Cleaning Clients

Jan 18, 2008
She had just moved into our area, buying in a very nice neighborhood. When she called about having her carpet cleaned ASAP, she immediately rubbed me the wrong way. You know the type. Combative with you immediately. Demanding (bordering on rude), even before you begin to "tell and sell" your company.

We do an in-home carpet evaluation with potential clients before quoting any pricing for carpet and upholstery cleaning. It allows us to tell the client what they can expect from the cleaning and what the cost will be if they hire us.

We charge by the square foot, so after measuring the areas she wanted cleaned, I gave her our exact down-to-the-penny price. I reviewed the square footages to be cleaned, what was included in the package we offered and finally, the cost to have us clean the carpeting.

It took less than three seconds for her to declare, "That's too much." She told me the last company she used had cleaned more carpet and did it for half the price I had just quoted.

I knew from her tone and demeanor that it was over. This woman had no intention of hiring our company. I thanked her for her time and left. Walking back to my van, I silently thanked the cleaning gods that we didn't have to do business with this woman.

However, five minutes after returning to the office, she called back and informed me she wanted us to clean the carpeting. The time for subtleties was over. "I thought you said our price was too high," I said. She replied, "Well, if you do a good job, we'll have you do it. Is tomorrow still available?" Stunned, I told her it was and that we would be there at 9 a.m.

After hanging up, I sat there staring at the phone and thought about this turn of events.

This lady was difficult from the get go. More importantly, she was clearly unhappy even before we set foot in the door to clean her carpet. Why? Because she felt she was being overcharged. No matter what we did, no matter how spectacular the results, I was convinced she would find fault with our cleaning because she was already dissatisfied.

Did I really want to work for her?

I decided to fire her as a potential client. I called her back and told we wouldn't be cleaning for her.

She was incredulous. "You mean even though I agreed to pay your price, you still won't clean my carpet?" Yep, you got it. I replied, "it's just not a good fit. There are plenty of dirt cheap companies who would love to clean for you." I actually gave her the names of two of our competitors to call.

"Even though I agreed to pay your price?" Those few words spoke volumes to me. She was convinced that I was holding her carpet for ransom. And if she was going to get it back clean, she was forced to pay our ransom price.

BIG LESSON: You can refuse to work for anyone that you choose. It's important to your business that you embrace this concept.

But isn't this discrimination? You bet. Is it ethical? Absolutely. Most people equate discrimination with prejudice, which has bigotry and intolerance at its base.

That is NOT what I'm referring to. The definition of discrimination, as it applies to this discussion is "the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually."

Refusing to work for someone is not a personal slight toward that person. It's simply a business decision.

REALLY BIG LESSON: Never forget that it's your company. Do you really want to work for just anyone who waves money in front of you? Working for a troublesome client will only steal your joy. It will cause you aggravation that you really don't need. Life is too short and the problems of business ownership are already complex. You do not need people like the one I just described as clients.

Now extend this concept even further

Many use direct response marketing to obtain new clients. Discrimination is applicable here as well.

You do not want mail to everyone simply because they have a heartbeat. Find out the average home value in your area. Add 10% to the value and that's who you want to market to. We categorically refuse to clean mobile homes and apartments. We laser focus on homeowners with nicer homes and more disposable income.

To help you sift and sort potential clients, have a substantial minimum service fee. It should be at least $100, preferably $125 or more and this would be after any discounts given.

Remember that line from the last Indiana Jones movie? Before selecting from dozens of cups to drink from, the old knight tells them to "choose wisely." The wrong decision would be disastrous. As business owners, the same holds true for us. Choose wisely which clients fill your cleaning schedule. The wrong choices won't necessarily be disastrous... but it will sure feel that way.
About the Author
David Gruttadaurio is the president of UBS Clean Care, a residential carpet cleaning and janitorial company serving the southwest Indiana cities of Newburgh 47630, Evansville 47725 and Princeton 47670. You can find more valuable information about carpet care by going to http://MyCleanCarpet.net
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