Dealing with Unhappy Clients in Your Cleaning Business
September 16, 2021
September 16, 2021
There are many things in the cleaning world that can make your client unhappy. If you’ve been doing this for any amount of time, you’re sure to have experienced some of these:
- Cleaner no-show
- Task wasn’t completed properly
- Something is broken
In the five-minute video below, Swept Founder and CEO Michael Brown takes us through four best practices in helping work with clients who are upset—for any reason. The key is to build trust and demonstrate leadership. After all, they chose your company for a reason. Not only to get the job done but also to make dealing with issues as painless as possible.
Watch below, or take a look at the video recap further down.
Four best practises for getting cleaning clients back on your good side
As a side note, we have published many resources (like this one) that explore how to prevent issues from happening in the first place. Much of this involves building a communication system so that you find out about problems before your client has to inform you.
When things do go wrong and the client’s raise a complaint with you, here’s what Michael recommends as best practices:
#1: Listen and do not make excuses
Most of the time, commercial cleaning business owners are in a problem-solving mindset. You’re always bombarded with new fires to put out, issues to deal with, etc. So the natural instinct is often to try to explain what happened and solve it ASAP.
This can be a huge mistake when your unhappy client first contacts you!
If someone is upset, much of the time they need to feel heard, and they need to feel like you’ve understood their pain. Jumping right towards a “fix” tends to bypass both these opportunities to show empathy and leadership.
Fixing the problem is a logical approach. When someone’s upset, the approach usually needs to be more of an emotional approach.
#2 Repeat what they said and empathize
After you’ve listened to the issue, you should repeat it back to them. This simple act proves that you’ve been listening, and it helps to verify that you do truly understand (it’s perfectly fine to miss a detail—the client will correct you if it’s important!)
Michael gives the following as an example of what this might sound like, coming from a cleaning business owner:
“I want to repeat this back, just to ensure that I have all the information correct. We’ve been forgetting to take out the garbages a few times a month, and leaving the bags in the lobby. So in the morning, we’re creating more work for your employees when they show up. And when things like this happen, you start to doubt the overall quality of our services. Did I get that right?”
At this point, they’ll either agree, correct a detail, or give you, even more, information relevant to the situation. This is very helpful for getting you and your client on the same page.
Be sure to demonstrate empathy. Something like: “Thank you for sharing that. That sounds really frustrating for your team and quite honestly, it’s not fair. I’m going to get to the bottom of this immediately.
#3 Find the solution
It is only now you go out and find the solution—when you fully understand the problem and your client feels heard.
Depending on the situation, you may have an answer to share right away with the client. Or, you may ask for some time to create a plan.
This is important: you do not need to have all the answers right away! Your client’s unhappiness is usually not tied to an immediate fix. If you demonstrate ownership of the problem and a conviction to take action, that is usually enough to regain and even build trust.
Of course, you do need to follow through! And, you need a system in place to ensure that if the problem happens again, you’re finding out before news reaches the client.
#4 Follow up and build trust
This is where it all comes together. This can be an email or phone call, depending on your client’s preference or how severe the issue was (face-to-face or a call are more appropriate for bigger, more serious issues).
No matter how you follow up, the message should more or less be:
- “Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”
- Share what took place on your end. For the garbage issue above, an example might be: “I discovered that my cleaner wasn’t taking the garbage out after dark because they were scared. They didn’t feel safe.”
- Take ownership, and share the next steps: “We’ve created a new process to take the garbage out first thing when the cleaner arrives.”
- Close off by building trust: “I want to thank you for allowing us to learn from this.”
Retain clients and grow the business
If you can establish these best practises, you’ll turn your mistakes into opportunities to cement the relationship.
When you demonstrate ownership, leadership and a willingness to communicate like this, it reflects well not only on your business, but on the choice the client made to hire you. It actually makes them look good to their bosses and colleagues!
That’s a good feeling. Happy clients stick around. Happy clients give you more flexibility and understanding when times are tight. And happy clients make referrals.
We hope this article and video on dealing with upset clients was useful. Swept grew out of a cleaning company that successfully used techniques like this to grow the business—we know it works!
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