OK. . . I can already hear you, “Of course she’s going to talk about appearance, she’s a woman.”
That’s right! And so are most of your clients. Actually, according to the statistics, only about 93%! In the residential market, women alone make 78% of the buying decisions; the couple makes the other 15% jointly.
So, before you get too defensive, think about this: how do your clients or their spouses dress every day when they head off to work - in suits or in torn blue jeans? In dresses, dress shirts and ties or in Grateful Dead T-shirts? And if you’re going after the commercial market, consider this; when was the last time you saw an executive wearing a backward ball cap, to work?
Grooming? Are they clean or neatly shaven? Of course! How many of them have visible tattoos and pierced body parts? And what about their hair? Come on…face reality, if you and your employees dress like professionals, you might just get treated and paid like one.
There’s this saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That first impression you give to your client is very important. Your company is selling “clean”. If you or your company representatives don’t look the part, you may never have the opportunity to cultivate a loyal, repeat customer in spite of your technical expertise.
I’ll admit it; I like to “dress up”. And when I do, my appearance sets me apart from other cleaners in my community. I take great pride in walking into my client’s home or office and having them say to me, “You’re too dressed up to be cleaning.”
Obviously, I’ve made an impression. I answer, “Just because I “clean” for a living doesn’t mean I have to look like a sanitation worker.”
In most cases, I give written estimates prior to our initial service call. I make every effort to dress “business casual” on those occasions.
Service professionals wear uniforms. UPS drivers, policemen, airline pilots, and military personnel. Their attire sets them apart from others. They show pride in their profession.
Many successful cleaning companies furnish their technicians with standard uniforms. This allows them to display their certification emblems and association affiliations on their clothing. In many cases, technicians are required to wear uniforms for the company to be awarded commercial contracts.
Our daily “cleaning” uniform is cotton pants and shirts displaying our company logo with collars – no T-shirts, please! Because of “wrinkle-free” fabrics that are available these days, our uniforms are easy to maintain. We provide each technician with six shirts and three pants every six months and expect them to wear clean outfits every day. They must wear clean, white, soft-soled shoes. Belts are required and shirts must be tucked into pants.
Get it? ... CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN…that’s our business, right?
Even our office manager wears the same “uniform.” Providing this clothing is a very small investment in our employees, and it makes our company “appear” more professional than the other cleaning companies in town.
In lieu of patches, technicians wear a business badge clipped to their shirt pocket. It is displayed in clear view so that the client can easily read the name and identify them as our employees. It also lists the technician’s IICRC certification number and the certifications held. When arriving on the job, technicians proudly hand clients a personalized company business card naming them as our cleaning technician. Once again, this reinforces the professional image we strive to maintain.
Personal hygiene and grooming reflect the image of your company also. Just one technician with body odor, bad breath or unclean hands can destroy your company’s image in no time. I realize I’m getting a little personal here, but it’s important to consider when hiring, or when reviewing an employee performance. We are in a “people” industry. We work very closely with our clients. In fact, 83% of people interviewed in a Dupont study revealed that “neatness” was the most important consideration when hiring a professional carpet cleaner.
Your company vehicle and equipment also should be kept clean, neat and orderly. I am amazed at the number of cars, trucks or vans used by cleaning companies that look like they just came from a demolition derby. Your company vehicle is a rolling billboard and a direct reflection on your company image. Just what kind of message are you sending your clients if its appearance and contents are unkempt? Technicians should be allotted time during the week to maintain both the outside and inside of that vehicle.
Chemicals and supplies should be kept in an orderly fashion that reinforces the total professional image you’re trying to portray. At the front door, drop your entry mat even before you ring the doorbell. Place towels, mats or spill proof containers under sprayers, buckets and cleaning tools. As the job is being finalized, wipe off floors, baseboards, and equipment. As technicians reel up hoses, debris should be cleaned off so it isn’t deposited at the next job site. If you’re using portable equipment, be sure that the wheels are clean before rolling it off or onto the carpet or floor. Use clean, white towels on every job. If they can’t be laundered, then throw them away! When the client sees you allowing time for equipment maintenance, they will be very impressed.
One other very important aspect of portraying and maintaining a professional image is a courtesy. In fact, it is the consumer’s number one consideration when hiring a cleaning company. People value their time. If they have made an appointment with your company for 10 AM on Tuesday, then they expect someone from your company to be there at 10 AM on Tuesday.
Oh yes, I know that circumstances will arise that can cause delays - a job took longer than expected, traffic, broken equipment, etc. - but the client doesn’t care. You weren’t there when you promised. Period! If you, or your technician, don’t have respect for your client’s valuable time, then get out of the cleaning business. There is no excuse! Cell phones and airtime are a lot cheaper than lost revenue because of an irate client.
As I said earlier, we are in a “people” industry. Don’t forget it. Your professional appearance, hygiene, and respect for your client’s time and belongings are extremely important to the existence of your business. Don’t underestimate the fact that people do “judge a book by its cover”.
And remember, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”