Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's The Little Things

Customer satisfaction normally gets measured by the smallest things. We've had customers select us because we sounded nice on the phone. We've had others select us because we simply contacted them after their housecleaning was completed. And we've lost customers before because we returned a phone call too late.

It's the little things that count. Here's proof that little things can make a big difference.

Pay For Satisfaction

The most common question that we hear regarding our pay for performance plan concerns the rating system. Many people don't understand how to rate their cleaning service. I always respond by telling the customer to rate their service based on their satisfaction level. In some cases, the person is still a little confused. It takes several explanations for them to understand that your rating is 100% dependent on your satisfaction level.

There is no formal rating structure. There is no questionnaire. There's only one requirement: your opinion.

The confusion is a direct result of the terrible state of customer service. People aren't accustomed to businesses letting them express their personal opinions so candidly. Yeah, opinions are subjective. Your opinion of a dirty home could be drastically different than your neighbors. People are different.

So, why should we create a standardized questionnaire to fit everybody? There is no everybody. There's only you. Our job is to make you happy. You determine your satisfaction.

Relying so heavily on personal opinion means that we must customize each and every home. Providing a generic cleaning program for all our customers would disrupt the pay for performance plan. It wouldn't be fair to our employees. Their pay is solely based on one thing: customer satisfaction.

Look around you and find another company that lets you express your opinion in the same manner as Two Maids & A Mop. My opinion is that we're the only the company in your life that cares so much about your opinion.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Biggest Myth About The Housecleaning Industry

The myth - Professional housecleaning companies hate individual housecleaners. You know them. Suzie from down the street and your neighbor's aunt, Laurie. They're available for work tomorrow and they're affordable. They charge less than anybody in the yellow pages. Just like that, Suzie's got a new client. All because she was cheaper than everybody else.

Most people think that professional cleaning companies hate this process. That's a myth. A professional cleaning company should love all individual housecleaners. It's simple when you think about it.

The housecleaning client hires Suzie. Suzie starts out pretty good, but her work seems to be declining as time goes on. She's breaking more things. She's showing up late more often. And she's getting pretty comfortable while she's in your home cleaning. Meanwhile, your getting used to not cleaning your home. You're not happy with Suzie's service, but it sure beats cleaning everything by yourself. At some point, you get fed up. You're sick and tired of Suzie showing up four hours late. You pull out of the phonebook and decide to pay a little more for the added service. That's when you call us. That's when you finally understand why our rates are higher than Suzie.

Don't get me wrong. There's some wonderful individual housecleaners out there. But, the reality is that the majority aren't wonderful. Most of our new customers aren't hiring a maid for the first time. They've been burned by another cleaner at some point and they're looking for a company that can act more professional than Suzie.

Thousands of cleaning businesses are born everyday. A few hundred die on the same day. The clients of all these dead businesses have to call somebody.

It might as well be us.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Little Self-Promotion

Ok, we're a little proud of ourselves. We've just recorded our first radio advertisement. Take a listen.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Immigration and Housecleaning

I detailed my idea for reducing America's growing reliance on immigrants recently.

Your product or service is a commodity if you don't provide anything but a product or service. Provide something extra and you get the opportunity to charge more because the product or service is now worth more. Charge more for your product or service and you get the opportunity to pay your employees more. Pay your employees more and you get the opportunity to select Americans for your employment pool.

Make price your only benefit and you're forced to hire cheap labor. Americans can't live off minimum wage, but our new citizens can. They're used to a much lower quality of life. They'll stick it out and work for minimum wage. Providing a cheap product or service means that you're hurting the overall health of our nation.

Read this if you don't believe me.

Taking The Blame

We make mistakes quite often. We're not proud of them, but they do happen. We don't promise perfection, but we do promise that we'll provide better customer service than any other cleaning company in the world. There's a bunch of reasons that we claim to be the most customer friendly housecleaning company in the world.

Some say it's because we have a pay for performance plan. Some say it's because we have great customer service systems in place. But I think that the real reason is because we hold ourselves accountable. We take the blame when something goes wrong. We take the blame because it's our fault. Some of our customers decide to leave our service once a mistake occurs. However, the vast majority recognize that we're different.

The norm is to not take responsibility. Remember Enron. Remember the band Great White. People aren't used to other people taking the blame for something.

The great Seth Godin writes about taking the blame today in his blog. I'm not sure where he's going with the last part of his article, but his account of terrible customer service with a chocolate company proves the point.

Most people will accept mistakes as long you accept responsibility for the mistake.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

18 Months Later

The day was August 14th. Outside the office, it was the normal hot and muggy day in northwest Florida. Inside, we were in serious trouble. Turnover was staggering and morale was at an all-time low. Meanwhile, potential customers were calling like crazy to set up new service. We had no place to put them because we didn't have enough employees. That's when it hit me.

We need to treat our employees better. Why should they care about this job if we don't give them anything but a tiny paycheck? Let me illustrate what tiny means. Tiny means 22 hours per week at $7.00 per hour, $154. That was the average weekly gross for an employee. Try paying rent, eating, or even driving to work on that amount of money.

Two things happened that day. The pay for performance plan was born and our customer's rates were raised. That day was the single most important day of my life. Without it, we'd be out of business. Without it, I'd be working for somebody else.

Instead, that day did happen. We've grown from four employees to more than thirty-five employees. We're on the verge of opening our third location. The future is indeed bright.

Here's the funny thing. We're still the only company in the world that's doing it. We get calls and emails every day, but nobody else has taken the initiative to make the change. Why? Because nobody else is doing it.

I never thought that we would be the pioneers of the housecleaning industry. But we are. And I hope it stays that way eighteen years from now.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Make Your Employees Happy First

The only way that a customer can be satisfied is if your employees are also satisfied. Low morale in any type of organization leads to major problems.

In the early days, we had terrible employee morale. Our pay was low, our work was hard, and our demands were stringent. We expected a lot out of our employees, but we didn't reward them with anything but a tiny paycheck. At the time, it seemed as if that were the only way to make our business work. Of course, times have changed and we now have a group of employees that collectively enjoy working for us.

It's difficult to have unanimous support in a workplace. But, it's not difficult to have unanimous disgust. Make one employee unhappy by treating them unfairly and you'll quickly find out that a large percentage of your workforce knows about it. Do nothing about it and your ship will start sinking. Employees shouldn't feel as if there are two sides to a business.

I know it sounds cheesy, but management needs to treat its employees as teammates. Anything less and you have a problem.

Click for proof.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Affecting Your Doctor's Wallet

The pay for performance movement is slowly gaining strength in many industries. I was excited to see that the state of California has recently started its own pay for performance plan for doctors.

The plan still needs some improvement since only 10% of the doctor's salary is determined by performance. A true pay for performance plan determines 100% of an employee's salary. Kind of like a little maid service company in Florida.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tis The Season

This month reminds me of the holidays. Lots of work to get prepared for the big day. Lots of anticipation for the big day. It's Christmas all over again.

The grand opening of our new office in Panama City is just a few short weeks away. We've been training, planning, and planning some more for the last couple of months. In about 27 days, it's time to start working.

Panama City doesn't know it yet, but things are about to change. We're about to raise the wages for all housekeeping employees in the city. We're about to raise the level of customer service for all service related companies in the city. We're about to take over the housecleaning market. And it's all because of three words.

The best three words an employee can hear. The best three words a customer can hear.

Pay for performance.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Making Customer Service Your Strength

For the most part, customer service is dead. It's a lost art for today's modern business. It's much easier to blame declining sales on bad marketing. It's also much easier to blame declining sales on your high prices. Don't fret, your sales are telling you something. You need to start providing more than just a product or service. You need to start providing an experience for your customer.

Take a look at how this restaurant makes customer service a strength rather than a weakness. Notice how the author points out that the restaurant's prices are the least important advantage that it has over its nearest competitor.

Exceptional customer service isn't born overnight. You can ask our customers from the early days and they'll confirm that it takes time for a customer service oriented culture to evolve. Yeah, it's easier to just price your stuff lower. And, it's easier to just change your advertising strategy.

But, who told you that it should be easy?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Customer No-Service

Here's a guy that lays into a company that provided terrible customer service.

Consumers, it's your choice. The supply and demand curve only works when there is a demand.

Do you demand customer service?