Critical steps your company must take to get and hold onto your most valuable customers

One of the cleaning jobs I landed when I started my cleaning business was in a larger, high-end home where my employees and I worked side-by-side with the housekeeper. 

I’ll never forget the first day we carefully made the beds only to have the housekeeper come in behind us and remake them, huffing and puffing all the while and complaining about the noise our vacuum cleaner was making. We tackled the cleaning of the kitchen and worked until every surface shined. As we were finishing, the housekeeper began prepping the family’s evening meal, leaving our perfectly polished kitchen in disarray and a sink full of dishes.  

She then announced she was leaving for the day and that we should not leave until the dishes were done. I remember being stunned at first. The housekeeper had been working in this home for a number of years, and it quickly became apparent that we would not be successful in this job if we couldn’t win her over.

Ultimately, we were not successful in this home, and I decided we would no longer pursue customers in this segment of the market. But when the opportunity arose again to meet with another potential customer with a complicated household, I decided to apply what I had learned and try again.  

So, What Went Wrong? 

Of course there were the obvious issues.

  1. Failing during the sales process to properly vet the customer and establish our service as a professional company. The initial contact with the client was more like interviewing for a position in the home. 
  2. Not recognizing the complexity of the home, I failed to develop a well-defined scope of work. We were simply hired “to clean.”  
  3. And there was a third and very powerful component contributing to our failure: our inability to establish a positive working relationship with the housekeeper. 

How We Turned It Around 

The keys to success for us have been: 

  1. Gaining an understanding of the needs of the household and determining if our service can meet those needs 
  2. Clearly defining the scope of work, and 
  3. Developing training for our staff to give them the tools they need to successfully serve alongside others in the home

We have found that during the sales process it is critical to properly vet the customer. We do this by identifying how the cleaning fits into the overall management of the home. For homeowners and house managers who are not interested in “managing” the technical aspects of cleaning or directly managing cleaning staff, our service is a good fit. For those who are not comfortable with having a team working autonomously – using our systems, tools and equipment – we are not a good fit and will not be able to deliver the service they are looking for. 

Once we have determined we will be able to provide the service the household is looking for, it is imperative to develop a clearly defined scope of work. As some of the cleaning will be done in conjunction with the duties of the housekeeper, it is important to also gain an understanding of their responsibilities. Our experience has been that the willingness of the household and staff to work with us to develop the scope of work is in direct correlation to our ability to be successful working in the home. 

The final component to success is giving our cleaners the tools and training to establish a positive working relationship with members of the household staff. This starts with helping employees recognize and respect the relationship the housekeeper often has with the family, especially if they have been serving them for a number of years. We encourage employees to communicate with the housekeeper regarding the home in the same manner they would with any other member of the household. This strategy is helpful in two ways. First, the housekeeper is familiar with the home and is a great knowledge resource; and secondly, it helps to mitigate the perception that we are there to take over the housekeeper’s job. 

We now successfully serve clients in this high-end segment of market, and a healthy percentage of our revenue comes from these more “complex” homes. We have found a way to offer the homeowner a value-added service by working successfully alongside house managers and housekeepers.

Benja Lane is CEO and founder of Maid My Day Brevard, Inc. a professional residential cleaning service in Satellite Beach, FL. Benja has an MBA from Husson Univeristy and is an alumna of the Foundations of Success program from Cleaning Business Builders.