Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Parallels Of Industry

I have a friend that works in the home mortgage business. He originates loans for people trying to buy a home. He charges a lot for his services. So does his competition. Mortgage origination sounds complicated and difficult. Not just anybody can do it.

But anybody can just do it. You don't need a degree at all. You barely even need a license. Basically, all you need is customers that will pay you.

But customers don't know this. My friend's customers think he's spent years learning how to originate loans. They think that he knows a lot more than they do. And he does. To some extent. But only because he works in the field everyday.

Basically, originating a loan is no different than cleaning a house. Both fields require the same two things. Basic knowledge of the business and superior customer service.

That's how my friend makes a living. He's a glorified customer service specialist. Just like me. If he doesn't provide timely quotes and fast turnaround on loans, he loses business. If I don't provide consistent quality cleanings, I lose business.

Industries are different. I couldn't become a doctor tomorrow. I couldn't even become a mortgage originator tomorrow. But all industries are the same to some degree.

Provide lousy customer service and you have a lousy business. Provide great customer service and you have a great business. Think about it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

One Of The Worst Jobs In America

Forbes recently published the worst 25 jobs in America. Debuting at #21 is my very own profession, the maid and housekeeping industry.

We're clumped together with professions such as ticket takers, dishwashers, and parking lot attendants. The reasons are pretty straightforward. The job is dirty. The job is hard. The job is not glamorous. And the job pays terribly low wages.

Interestingly, the worst jobs in America are all service related jobs. Today's consumer wants good service. However, today's consumer usually doesn't get good service. The reason may be in the numbers. Nobody wants to actually pay for good service. Or do they?

Our customers pay for it. I think that the problem is that service related businesses are too lazy. They're too lazy to make their service better. They would rather compete on price. Competing on price is easier. Competing on quality is harder. But if you provide a better quality service, you get to charge more for your service. If you charge more for your service, you get to pay your employees more.

That's our plan here at Two Maids & A Mop. Our industry might stink. But we don't. Many of our employees make more than $22,000 annually. That may sound low to some of you, but it's actually higher than the median income for an individual in our area.

We can't change the dynamics of our industry. The job will always be dirty. The job will always be hard. But the job doesn't have to pay poorly. Give the consumer what she wants and you'll get to give your employees what they want.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Earning And Giving

This has nothing to do with housecleaning, customer service, or paying for performance. However, it has a lot to do with my favorite businessman...Warren Buffett.

He's giving away most of his money. He's earned it. All $44 billion of it.

You don't have to agree with everything Mr. Buffett says. You don't even have to agree with this move. But one thing you have to agree on is that this man is a hero. He's certainly mine.

Hiring Your Maid

Check out this article. It talks about the reasons people hire a maid and it also describes how people select their maid.

The most interesting quote:

"Industry statistics are sketchy because as much as 70 percent of the market is made up of independent housekeepers who don't always report their wages."

The cleaning industry will continue to be dominated by "independent housekeepers" until "professional cleaning companies" start delivering more service. Why should the consumer pay more when she doesn't feel like there is any difference in the service?

That's why we have the pay for performance plan. And that's why people pay more for our services. I wish this newspaper would have called one of our customers.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Mid-Year Update

The Pensacola Location
Two Maids & A Mop got its start in Pensacola. There were days when we had nothing to do but wait for the phone to ring. The phone didn't even ring some days. Times have changed. There's days when we want the phone to stop ringing. There's days when we want just four customers. But then I remember the work that it took to get to this point. And I start answering those phone calls like we're only getting one call per day. It's exciting to be so successful. And that's what we are in Pensacola. We are a success.

We're now cleaning more than 30 homes per day. We're on the verge of hiring our first office assistant. We've been used as an example in a customer service course at the local college. And we're regarded as THE best cleaning service in Pensacola. Times are good and getting better every day.

The Fort Walton Beach Location
The second location took a while to get started. Combine a nasty hurricane with an inexperienced entrepreneur and that's what happens. The hurricane forced us to have two grand openings. The inexperienced entrepreneur forced us to try several unsuccessful marketing ideas. Two years later, we're flying high.

We're now cleaning nearly 20 homes per day. Just two years ago, we cleaned six homes during our first week. Last week, we cleaned 97 homes. We're on the verge of catching our big brother in Pensacola.

The Panama City Location
The third location is still a baby. There's lots of work still left to complete. The calls started off with a bang, but they've slowed lately. We're only cleaning about 5-6 homes per day. But we're only three months old. Nobody knows us yet. They will. Our pay for performance program is too contagious. I can't wait to see where we are nine months from today. I have a feeling that we'll be missing these days soon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Laughing At Bad Customer Service

People don't expect great customer service. Too many businesses do it wrong. Bad customer service is more common than good customer service. On the flip side, really bad customer service can sometimes be really funny.

Here's your proof.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Customer Service Tip

Read on book on customer service over the weekend. Here's an interesting quote from it:

The best way to provide exceptional customer service is to think, "You're the customer- you pay my salary!".

What a novel idea. Don't you think?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Our Competition

We compete against all types of cleaning businesses. The competition ranges from companies that only employ one person to companies that employ more than 10,000 people. The common denominator is that we usually don't have to compete real hard. The small business does the same exact thing as the big business. And they do it wrong.

Except for this company. They're innovative. They're creative. They're full of energy. They're not doing the same thing as everybody else. And they're the most successful cleaning company in northern Europe.

Cleaning is boring. A boring industry doesn't have to be full of dull businesses. Boring industries usually make it easy for a business to succeed. Just look at us. A simple five minute idea has created 49 jobs and three business locations. All within three years.

Our competitors will wake up one day. Right now, we're nobody. At some point, another smart business owner will realize the power of our pay for performance program and he'll start using it too. The dominoes will start falling from that point forward.

We're changing the cleaning industry. Our competition is letting us do it. I'm glad we're not in northern Europe.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Taking It Personal

We lost a long term customer today in Pensacola. The customer didn't feel that we were any different than any other cleaning company in the yellow pages. He grouped us in with everybody else. That makes me sick to my stomach.

We can't be perfect all the time. We can't do everything right all the time. But we can show each and every customer that we are not just like everybody else. Our employees, the managers, myself. We all work hard to prove to you that we are the most caring, trusting cleaning service in the world. But everyone doesn't agree with that statement obviously.

To know that we lost a customer because that customer looked at us in the same light as everyone else makes me sick. And we're not going to sit around and let another customer make that same claim. We're going to work even harder to prove to you that we are different.

What are we going to do? We're going to start re-educating our employees about our commitment to customer satisfaction. Maybe our employees forgot why customers pay more for our services. We're going to start educating our customers about the realities and limitations of our industry. We can only be as good as reality allows us to be.

In the end, I'm still sick. We don't lose many customers. My god, we have more than 500 at this point. But I don't like losing customers this way. Our customers should know that we provide a different service than the rest of the industry. It's my job to prove it to them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Don't Hire This Cleaning Service

This video is a joke.

Every good joke contains a little bit of reality. Make sure that you're hiring the right cleaning service. Don't hire them just because they're cheaper. Don't make the same mistake as everybody else.

You really do get what you pay for.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Career Path Of A Maid

The career path for a maid is typically horizontal. That's the honest truth. That's also the reason so many cleaning companies provide lousy service. Nobody cares because nobody has to care.

Cleaning companies are no different than other commodity-based services. They all do the same thing. They provide basic services for low prices. More importantly, they don't give their employees any reason to be ambitious.

Accountants want to become a CPA. Mid-level managers want to be high-level executives. Interns want to become professionals. Maids just want to pay their bills. They work for the cleaning company because they either can't find another job or it's a better alternative than another job.

They don't aspire to one day run the cleaning company. They don't even aspire to become a mid-level manager with the cleaning company. They'll leave the cleaning company if another company offers a nickel more per hour.

At Two Maids & A Mop, each of our three current managers were hired initially to clean homes. They were maids. In addition, we have four levels of employment. A level four employee has a much higher earning potential than a level one employee. To graduate from level one to another level, you only need to provide one thing: superior customer satisfaction. Of course, we measure customer satisfaction everyday so it's not hard for us to find a superstar. Finally, an employee of Two Maids & A Mop is educated about our plan. They know that we're going places. When a business grows, it needs employees. Many of our current employees tell us everyday that they want to become the next manager of a new location. Our maids have ambition.

They have ambition because they know that they have places to grow within the company. You can't just hire somebody and expect that person to work if there is no place to go. The career path for our employees is not horizontal. It's as vertical as it can be.

Friday, June 09, 2006

When You Have More Work Than Help

That's a commonly heard phrase in the cleaning industry. Turnover is the most difficult challenge for a cleaning company. We learned that long ago.

Here's an article that supports our argument on turnover.

According to the article, the cleaning company is turning away business because it doesn't have enough employees. The company is a franchise. A big franchise. Big franchises don't move very quickly. That's why this franchise owner doesn't know what to do to fix his problem. His solution: raise his wages.

He's raising his wages because he can't do anything else. He can't create anything revolutionary like our pay for performance plan. He can't because his corporate office won't let him. Franchises run their businesses out of a book. No deviation is allowed.

The most alarming statement from the owner of this cleaning company. "We've raised wages gradually, because we don't know what the optimal level is."

The optimal level is easy to figure out. The optimal level is higher than everyone else that you compete against. Our employees know that they can make more than anyone else in their industry as long they make their customers happy. Customer satisfaction equals above average wages.

I feel for this cleaning company. They're turning away more than $50,000 worth of work because they have an employee shortage. I've been in his shoes. It sucks. I was just as desperate as this guy. But I was just a little, tiny company. I could do anything I wanted to do in order to fix the situation. My desperation led to the pay for performance plan. All he can do is raise his wages and hope for the best.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How To Lose A Customer

Here's the situation.

Suzie hires a cleaning service to clean her home. Suzie isn't happy after her home is cleaned. Overall, it's ok...but it's far from a thorough cleaning. After all, the cleaning service did promise to "deep clean" her home. Suzie calls the cleaning service and speaks to the owner. The owner promises that the next visit will be better. He documents the mistakes and reduces the rate of the next cleaning. The owner sends two of his best people to Suzie's home the following week. You guessed it. Suzie still isn't happy. Suzie contacts the owner and the owner comes out to see for himself. It's true, Suzie's home is still dirty. The owner apologizes and refuses any money. Meanwhile, Suzie's had it. She's lost her patience and she's finished.

That company is Two Maids & A Mop. The self-proclaimed "most customer friendly housecleaning company in the world". That owner is me. The self-proclaimed "czar of the cleaning world".

What should happen next. Should I dig a hole and hide? Should I cut my losses and chalk it up to experience? Or, should I work even harder to prove to Suzie that we are different?

I think you know the answer. Suzie isn't paying for another housecleaning for at least six weeks. That's right. Suzie owes us nothing. She's already paid us by giving us another opportunity to prove ourselves. After six weeks, Suzie will understand that we are different. Right now, we just seem desperate. Maybe we are. But I'm embarrassed and I hate being grouped in with other cleaning companies.

Mistakes happen. We're not perfect all the time. I accept that fact. But I still don't have to like it. My pride means a lot more to me than my money.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hiring Mom To Clean Your House

Many of our current customers have hired an individual to clean their home. Hiring an individual housecleaner can be risky. And it can be illegal if you don't pay Uncle Sam for the services.

Here's a good primer on the legalities involved in hiring your own personal housecleaner.

Sidenote: Hiring a licensed housecleaning company doesn't require any of these actions.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Hotel Maids

The person that cleaned your hotel room probably makes minimum wage. The person that cleaned your hotel room has cleaned that same hotel room forever. The person that cleaned your hotel room hates that job.

Hotel maids have no incentive to deliver customer satisfaction. Hotel maids are expected to clean fast, not good. And that's exactly what happens.

It's safe to say that you get what you pay for. A $35 room probably should be dirtier than a $200 room. But, even the $35 room could provide better service and quality. Here's a profound approach to providing incentives to an employee: pay for performance.

Pay the hotel maid based on customer feedback. Pay the hotel maid for quality instead of quantity. The same goes to every other cleaning company out there.

Wake up. You're making us look bad.