Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You can either be right or you can be successful

About 6 weeks ago I had another VERY bad day.  It took a few weeks and a long vacation for me to get my head around it to write about it.   

We do our own carpet cleaning here and we have one carpet cleaner on staff.   On Friday morning our carpet cleaner called off.  We had two jobs we could not move, an apartment cleaning and cleaning one small chair for a very good customer.   I am an IICRC certified carpet and upholstery cleaner so I decided I would go do the two jobs myself.  In addition the woman we were cleaning the chair for is a very good customer.  We clean her home weekly and her business 5 nights a week.  In total she spends over $2,000 a month with my company and I had never met her.   I thought as much as I hate to be out carpet cleaning, it will be great to meet my client and I plan to knock her socks off and really do a great job on this chair, no expense spared and show my artistry.  So I hop in the van head out.

The first job is rather uneventful.  Carpet cleaning of an empty apartment and all goes well.  I get to my last client right on time.  It turns out she is not feeling well and tells her husband to show me around.  The chair we are cleaning is a very small old black recliner in the walk out basement.  The biggest problem is it is covered with white dog hair.  My team had just cleaned there earlier in the day so I asked the husband if we could move the chair outside where I would have better light, we would not have to drag hoses through the house, and as I brushed off the hair it would not resettle on the floor or furniture.   He agreed and said that sounded like a great idea.  I explained we needed water to make the carpet van worked and I asked if we could hook up the faucet in the back of the house and he said sure.  So I fill up my little bucket of what and I am cleaning the chair with a low moisture method using a sea sponge and foam.

So I am set up and I am cleaning the chair.  It is a beautiful day, the chair is looking good, I have a smile on my face and life is good.  I don’t clean very often anymore and I was enjoying doing a relatively easy job out in the 80 degree sun.   Then all off a sudden my client comes screaming out of the house and I mean screaming “How Dare you!”.   I am more than a little confused.   So I ask what I can help her with and she just keeps screaming at the top of her lunges how dare you.   Finally her husband walks out side and she switches to screaming “How dare you, you flooded my basement.”   Now I am really confused.  I am outside on the side of the house.  I don’t even have a hose in her hose.   I have a little bucket with about ½ gallon of water.  I have not even turned on the van yet.  I keep asking her to explain and finally after about 3 minutes of screaming the same two things she switches to “How dare you use my faucet?  Who told you to do that?”.  Her husband is now standing there and is saying “I told him to honey”.   She keeps yelling it and he keeps saying “I did honey.”  Now she switches  to “That faucet leaks into my basement, I just spent $10,000 fixing it and you just flooded my basement.  How dare you!”   OK, now I finally understand what is going on.   The outdoor faucet I hooked up to leaks into the basement.  She just paid someone $10,000 to fix the plumbing, pump out the water, and fix damage to the finished basement. 

So finally she switches to demanding “I want to speak to your manager give me the number of your company.”   “Ma’am I am the owner.  I am can help you with anything you need.  We have a carpet van right here, lets go check out the water and get it taken care of.”   She keeps demanding the number for the office and I keep saying I can give it to you but I am the owner and I am standing right here.  Finally she storms off yelling “Fine I will go look it up myself, I am so getting you fired, your incompetent.”  I look at her husband and say “I don’t  think she is hearing us.”  He agrees “no I don’t think she is.”  I find out later from my office staff that she called and demanded that every person in the company come out there this very instant and take care of the problem.  They also kept trying to tell her that I was the owner, I was there, and I was also an IICRC certified cleaner and restorer.  

Her husband and I finally go into the basement.  Sure enough there is probably 50 gallons of water on the carpet.  I have my carpet claw with me so I extract the water, spray some anti-microbial products, and set up some fans to dry it.  This is a clean water spill extracted within 15 minutes.   It should be fine within 3 or 4 hours.  

So things did not go at all as planned.  I had planned to impress this very important customer and instead it went very bad.   However I am thankfully for a few things.  First, I am glad we have a process and I followed it.  There is a reason we always ask if we can use the client’s outdoor faucet and this pretty much the perfect example as to why.   If I had not asked up front to use that faucet it would have been my fault when the basement flooded.  Because I asked up front I had covered myself with the client.  Second I did not lose my temper and just turn around and leave.   Remember this woman spends well over $25,000 a year with my company.   We can all agree she did not treat me very well but we also have to understand people are human.  There was a lot going on in this woman’s life. 

1.  That chair I was cleaning was supposed to be a gift for her father.  She was getting it cleaned for him.  He died 4 days earlier.  She decided to get the chair cleaned anyway and did not cancel the appointment.  (Thank fully I knew this going in because my cleaning tech is alert to her client and she warned me of this.)
2.  This woman had just spent $10,000 to fix this problem including the plumbing that obviously was not fixed very well.  A lot of the frustration I was on the receiving end of was because of this.
3.   I knew she was not feeling very well but only after it all calmed down did her husband explain she had a medical procedure that morning that had required she be put under.   She was literally still in twilight after surgery and highly drugged at the time.  She probably really did not hear what I was saying.

The next day this client did send me a note apologizing for what happened and explaining all her frustrations.  I have nothing but a positive relationship with her since then.  So I guess my point is we have to remember our clients are human.  There is so much going on in a client’s life we may not realize.  I think we can all agree it would have been perfectly reasonable for me to politely say “ma’am I am sorry your plumbing is leaking.  That is not something I caused.  I cannot stay here with you like this.”  And leave.  I may have also lost the client because she would have been stuck with a flooded basement on a Friday night.  My fault or not that would have left a mad taste.  This woman had lost her dad, was highly drugged, was in a great deal of pain, her basement was flooded, and she just paid someone $10,000 to make sure that never happened again.   I was just in the very much the wrong place at very much the wrong time.  Taking what ever she threw at me and helping her out of the situation that I had no duty to do so will probably make her a client for life.   I can also not say again how happy I am that we have procedures and we followed them.  That simple question of “I need to hook up the van to a water supply, may I use this faucet?” was probably the most important question I asked all year.

This also reminds me of one of my favorite saying with my employees.  "We can be right or we can be successful."  Sometimes the path to great service comes from helping the client out and not worrying about who is right and wrong.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Good Lesson learned Derek. I love this blog and swear one day I will get my kids certified cleaners so they do a thorough job!