I recently had to step out of my management position, roll up my sleeves and handle an on-site cleaning job for a highly valued customer. The chair I was to clean was a small, old, black recliner located in the customer’s walk-out basement. My team had cleaned there earlier, so I asked the husband if we could move the chair outside where we wouldn’t have to drag dirty hoses through the house. He agreed. I then asked if I could hook up to their outdoor faucet. “Sure,” he said. I filled my bucket with water and began cleaning outside on a beautiful afternoon. The chair was looking good and I was enjoying myself.
“How Dare You!”
All of the sudden, the wife came running out.
“How dare you! You flooded my basement.”
I was really confused. I hadn’t stepped foot in the house. I asked what I could do to help, but she just kept screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Who said you could use my faucet?”
Her husband explained, “I told him, honey.”
She bulldozed past his comment. “That faucet leaks. You just flooded my basement!”
Now, I was starting to get the picture.
“I want to speak to your manager,” she yelled. “Give me the number of your company.”
“Ma’am,” I explained. “I’m the owner. I can help you.”
She did not seem to hear a word. She kept demanding the number for our offices. Finally, she stormed off yelling. “Fine, I will go look it up myself. I am so getting you fired. You are a complete INCOMPETENT!”
Startled, her husband and I went into the basement. Sure enough, fifty gallons of water was floating across the carpet. I extracted the water, sprayed some anti-microbial products and set up a few fans to dry everything.
Making a Choice
I could have made a different choice that day. It would have been reasonable for me to say, that’s not something I caused, it was not my fault or you shouldn’t yell at me. I could have left quietly and let her deal with her flooded basement. However, I’d probably have lost a very valuable client.
Our Clients Are Human
It’s important to remember that our clients are human, and we don’t always know what’s going on in their lives. The next day, I received an apology from the woman. Since then, we’ve had a very positive relationship. I came to learn that there was a lot going on in her life the day I came to clean her chair. Not only had she just spent $10,000 to fix a plumbing problem that wasn’t fixed, but the chair I was cleaning was a gift for her father. Unfortunately, he’d died four days earlier and she had not cancelled the cleaning appointment. Finally, she’d undergone a surgical procedure that morning, and was still highly drugged when she was screaming at me. Sometimes the path to great service comes from helping the client and not worrying about who is right or who is wrong.
Derek Christian is the owner of My Maid Service with locations in Cincinnati, OH and Dallas, TX, as well as a business coach through Cleaning Business Builders and publisher of CleaningBusinessToday.com. Derek is now an investor in several cleaning companies including My Maid Service Dayton and Real World Services Columbus. Derek is also a consultant for industry leaders Marvelous Maids and Castle Keepers.