Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lessons learned: No man can serve two masters

My blog on Groupon from Thursday made me think of another more general lesson I have learned and unfortunately it took several times of learning it for the lesson to really stick.  That lesson is no man, or cleaning business, can serve two masters.  Let me explain what I mean.  Most of you have learned that managing the expectations of one customer is hard enough.  What makes it even harder is managing the expectations of two people.  Let me give you a few examples. 

At some point, most cleaning service owners decide they want to work with real estate agents.  After all, agents know when people are moving into and out of town and clients often ask for recommendations.  However, more often than not, these relationships end in disaster.  Why?  The answer is simple, there are two masters.  Let me give you a few examples.  A realtor has a client trying to sell his house.  The agent recommends they hire cleaning service and recommends you.  You talk to the client listing the home and decide on a budget and scope of work.  You do a walk through and the client is happy.  The next day, you get a furious call from the realtor.  She has a standard of clean and we have not met it.  She expects a professionally cleaned house to look like X, Y, and Z and we did not do it.  We try to explain that her client did not want for and refused to pay for those services but she is having none of it.  She cannot show the house like this.  She has a reputation to defend and she will not refer us any more business unless we reclean the house to her standards. 

Lets look at another version of this I have seen.  You get a call from a landlord.  His renter is moving in and the house is basically clean, he already had it cleaned once and it met his standards.  His new tenant is not happy and wants a few things touched up.  The landlord agrees to pay for up to 4 hours of touch up work but not a penny more.  You get there and the landlord is right but this is a VERY picky tenant.  She wants every black mark off the baseboards, the fridge to look like brand new, and all the windows and tracks spotless.   You call the landlord and explain that it will take more time but he is having none of it.  4 hours is enough he says.  The place was already clean, make the renter prioritize.  The renter is furious, she wants her house spotlessly clean and it is our fault because we are refusing to do the work.  Everyone is unhappy and you are stuck in an impossible situation.

It has taken far too many times to learn this lesson but more often than not, if there are two parties to a cleaning service, it is going to end badly.  You are almost always better off to just walk away from these kinds of jobs.  They create far too much heart ache for the amount of money involved because they are almost always one time jobs.

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