Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Value Of Your Maid

The value of anything is determined by you. You get to determine what you are willing to pay for a product or service everyday. You are your own market.

At Two Maids & A Mop, we feel like our services are more valuable than any other cleaning service in the area. However, we don't get to put a price tag on that value. You do. Just like this former customer did......

"I have decided to stop having my house cleaned by Two Maids and a Mop. It wasn't that the people who did the work weren't pleasant and industrious. It's just that I believe that the service cost too much for the job at hand."

Now this comes from a customer that hired us because the previous maids quit showing up. At that time, our service had value. But at some point, our service quit becoming valuable because our service became too dependable. In this customer's mind, he forgot that "anybody can't just do this" and started thinking that "anybody can do this".

Now the good part comes in a few months from now. That's when his new maids start acting like his old maids. Because starting a maid service is just as easy as quitting a maid service. And that's when he remembers that cleaning toilets isn't really his biggest priority. His biggest priority is getting someone to show up to clean the toilets.

But right now, our value is lower than our price tag. That's what makes this country so beautiful. Supply always meets demand.

You can keep on hiring the cheaper maids. You are the one that gets to determine the value of our service. But those cheaper maids usually become less valuable once you figure out why they were cheap in the first place. That's when you have to determine how much value you place on your maid service. For some, its' never. After all, it's just housecleaning. But for others, we become very attractive. Because after all, it's not just about housecleaning.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The ABC's Of Customer Service

It's common knowledge that children must know the alphabet before they can ever read or write. No one questions this statement because it's obvious.

But it's not obvious to your child. Your child doesn't understand the importance of the alphabet. But without knowing your ABC's, you can't do much of anything in life.

So what happens when it comes to providing customer service? The typical scenario is for the boss to send an employee to a one-day seminar on providing exceptional customer service. Some bosses like to give their employees a book on customer service. Other bosses do nothing. They just assume that you already know how to make a customer happy.

But you don't know how to make a customer happy. Because you've never been taught how to make a customer happy. You need to know the ABC's of customer service before you can ever make a customer smile on a consistent basis. The tricky part is that every industry has its own alphabet. What works in the maid service industry doesn't work in the particle characterization industry. Customers are different. Better stated, what the customer wants is different.

So what's your alphabet? Answer these questions and you'll know.

1. Who is my customer?
2. What are the biggest mistakes that my industry makes?
3. What does my customer want from me?

And if you're wondering about the ABC's of customer service for Two Maids & A Mop......

My customer is sick of her current housecleaner. My customer is sick of her housecleaner because she shows up late, or doesn't even show up at all. My customer thinks that her housecleaner is getting worse and worse over time. My customer wants me to clean her house without her having to think about it. My customer doesn't want to wait all morning for me to show up. My customer doesn't want to get a call from me in the morning saying I'm sick. My customer wants me to correct my mistakes when I make them.

Before you can start serving the customer, you need to know what the customer wants to be served.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The White Van Speaker Sale

You've got several choices if you're looking to purchase stereo speakers as a Christmas gift this year. One obvious choice is to purchase the speakers from an established retail business. Another is to cruise the internet for deals. But there's another choice that's becoming more and more popular. It's the White Van Speaker Sale. And it's coming to your local gas station or mall in the very near future.

Here's how the sale works. Two guys, often wearing nice uniforms, possessing realistic looking invoices, business cards, and many of the trappings of a legitimate business, try to sell sets of speakers out of a van; it's white, because those are usually the cheapest to rent. The vans are often unmarked but occasionally have professional-looking graphics on the side which could be nothing more than temporary sticker or magnet signs. They will set up in a mall parking lot, gas station, or bank parking lots.

It's a scam. And one that works surprisingly well. Click here for stories from victims of the scam.

Now there's somebody reading this right now that thinks the white van sale sounds ridiculous. You wouldn't fall for something as silly as that right? But that same person has no problem hiring the cheapest cleaning lady she can find. After all, the cleaning lady is bonded. After all, the cleaning lady does have a business card and tons of references. And most importantly, this cleaning lady left a professional looking flyer on the door. This is a real cleaning business.

Ah uh....check outside your door. You might just see a white van sitting there.

Monday, November 20, 2006

12 Ways To Cope With Thanksgiving

Everybody's a little stressed right now. You're either going out of town or getting ready for a big family gathering. There's lots to do in a short time.

Click here to find 12 ways to cope with your Thanksgiving stress.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Supply And Demand

Our grand opening in Panama City was big. We had hundreds of phone calls. But that day pales in comparison to the opening of most electronic stores around the world today.

Check out this video of the opening of a Best Buy earlier this morning.

It's called supply and demand. Limited supply increases demand. That's how you create a buying frenzy. Click here for even more proof that supply and demand works.

The maid service industry is slow. Much slower than the gaming industry. Heck, we're still using mops to clean floors. But that doesn't mean we don't have a supply and demand curve.

No, our services won't ever be sold for $5,000 on eBay. But there's a frustrated homeowner out there somewhere right now. She's sick and tired of her current maid service. They never show up on time. They make the same mistakes over and over again. They don't really seem to care about anything but getting in and out of the house as quickly as possible.

That's when our supply meets her demand. That's when she dials one of these phone numbers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Box Of Chocolates

You've heard Forrest Gump say it before. Life's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna to get until you open the box.

But what if the box was real big? What if there were just too many choices? And what if you could only eat one piece of chocolate? Which piece would you select?

That one little piece of chocolate now becomes a big decision. Because you don't want to waste your pick. So you really think about that pick. And when you finally pick that piece of's over. There's no need to second guess. Because you can't pick another one if you wanted to.

Now what if you selected everything just like that..... What if you could only live in one city during your life? What if you could only have one friend? What if you could only read one blog? What if you could only hire one maid?

Hire your next maid because you think that she is better than everyone else. Not because she left a piece of paper on your door. And not because she's your friend's out-of-work daughter. And not because she is cheaper than everybody else.

Hire your next maid like she's in a box of chocolates. And you only get one bite. Don't become the serial maid service hirer.

The moral of the story. Nobody's perfect. Quit searching for perfection and start looking for somebody that cares. Caring means more than perfect anyway. Because your only perfect until you mess up. That's when the caring part shows up.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Minding Your Own Business

Word is that a hospital administrator in New Mexico had one of the best weekends he's had in a long time. The reason: he's decided to get out of the cleaning business and start concentrating on the healthcare business.

Click here to read the story.

Gone are the days when he has to get on the phone frantically searching for somebody to clean his floors. Gone are the days when he has to handle outrageous turnover levels. Never again will he have to run his own little cleaning service. He states it best, "Our business is patient care. Dave Sepich has been in the cleaning business for 30 years. His business is cleaning."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Employee Number 50

Yesterday we hired our fiftieth employee. Just three years ago, we only had three employees. Times have certainly changed.

I remember plenty of days wondering how in the world we would ever make this business work. Turnover was out of control and customers didn't know that we were alive. I was frustrated.

A lot of things combined to help turn the business around. One of the biggest reasons was our pay for performance program. Not only did it decrease employee turnover, but it also created a tremendous competitive advantage. I can't believe that we're still the only cleaning company doing it.

But the pay for performance plan doesn't account for all of our success. At each location, we have managers who really believe in our business. They operate the business as if it were their own business. Some days I wonder if I get in the way because they do such a wonderful job without me. Without our managers, our business would be dead today. Thank you Colleen, Melissa, and Elicia.

I also want to thank Julie. Julie managed our Pensacola office for the first eighteen months. The worst eighteen months may be a better way to describe that period. It was chaotic everyday because we never had enough employees. Scrambling took on a new definition during those days. Without Julie, our business would be dead today.

And then there's Cheryl, Trenetta, April B., Armanda, Hazel, April F., and Pam. Each of these employees really made a difference. They all have contributed different things to our business. Many of them are still with us today. And yes.... without them, our business would be dead today.

We've come a long way in short time. I can't wait to see where we are in another three years.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A License To Clean

Imagine if your daughter didn't need to pass a test in order to drive a car? Imagine if your pharmacist didn't need to pass a test in order to prescribe your medicines? Imagine if your housecleaner had to pass a test in order to clean your home?

Most people think that housecleaning is easy. I'll be the first one to admit that it's much easier than understanding the effects of hundreds of different types of pharmaceuticals. But that doesn't mean it should be treated any differently. After all, you pay a lot of money to get your house cleaned. You should expect for that person to know what they're doing.

The current system only requires that you possess either an occupational license or business license. In many cases, neither of these licenses is required since most housecleaning work is done under the table (pardon the pun). In either case, it doesn't matter because it only takes a few bucks to get either of the two licenses. They're taxes, not licenses.

But what if your housecleaner needed to pass a test in order to get that business license? What if they had to pass this test......

1. The first step would require that the future housecleaner pay for a nationwide criminal background search. The applicant would be denied if he/she was ever convicted of a felony.

2. The second step would require that the future housecleaner pass a safety exam on certain cleaning chemicals and procedures. Some people don't know what happens when you mix ammonia with bleach. Some people don't know that little kids like to play with aerosol bottles left behind by the housecleaner.

3. The third step would require that the future housecleaner sign an ethics oath. Just like the one that your doctor has to sign. No stealing from clients. No under the table shenanigans. No sleeping on the client's couch while everybody's away.

4. The final step would require that the future housecleaner earn continuing education points each year in order to renew the license. In most cities, there are an abundance of continuing education courses focused on customer service, safety, and health.

In addition, maid service companies (like Two Maids & A Mop) would be required to submit documentation on each newly hired employee. Each of these four requirements would also be required for each newly hired employee.

Yes, this would take a lot of work. No, this wouldn't solve everything. Just because you have order doesn't mean you still don't have a little disorder. But it would help.

It would help you. It would help you know that you're hiring a real business. Not somebody's out-of-work daughter.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Thinking About Hiring A Maid

We get new customers everyday. Sometimes we get a new customer because we answered the phone first. Sometimes we get a new customer because our name caught their attention. Sometimes we get a new customer because we earned their business. They picked us because they thought that we were the better choice. Being the better choice can be achieved in a number of ways. And you can't be all the choices. So we don't expect to win every new customer battle. Here's why people think their maid is the better choice.

1. Cheapest provider. Winning the cheap battle is tough in our business because you'll never be the cheapest. There is always somebody just a little more cheaper than you. That's what happens when you compete an industry that doesn't require a large start-up investment from the business owner. Of course, cheap has its merits. Sometimes cheap is all you need. But you usually get what you pay for. Hire the cheap maid and you'll understand. Something always goes wrong. And that's when we start looking good.

2. Most dependable. Being dependable means that you show up for work on time every time. That's easier said than done. Being on time every time requires you to operate your cleaning business like a real business. You must have a real scheduling process. Otherwise, you're going to miss appointments. Or you're going to arrive late. Being dependable means a lot more than just being dependable. Being dependable is the first step in proving to the customer that you care.

3. Most customer friendly. Yes, you're hiring someone to clean your house. That's your ultimate priority. But there's more to the story than simply cleaning counters. You want someone that is going to provide real customer service. Real customer service means that you can reschedule the housecleaning if your sick. Real customer service means that you can complain about mistakes and expect for the mistakes to be corrected. Real customer service means that your maid should care about you. Finding the most customer friendly company is easy. Just ask them how they make their current customers happy. If you like the answer, hire them.

4. The neighbors use them. This is the most common method of selecting the better choice. Why hire a stranger when your neighbor has already conducted the test drive for you. Of course, it doesn't have to be your neighbor. It can be your mother. It can be your boss. It can be anybody you know. Or should I say anybody you trust. We have people who call us and never even hear about our pay for performance plan. They don't even care about our rates. Because they trust their neighbor. Which leads us back to the first three points. You gotta be good at something in order for somebody to pick you in the first place. Once somebody picks you, they tell somebody else to pick you. That's how the train gets started.

5. The best cleaner. This is possible. But it's difficult to find. If you're like me, you make mistakes. Because we're both human. And that's what your maid is also. A lot of people hire us and indicate that they are going to let us conduct a "test run". The theory is that if we do a good job, then we'll keep doing a good job. The reality is that we'll mess up at some point. Hopefully, it won't be during the test run. But it's possible. Because we're human. Finding the perfect maid is akin to finding the perfect spouse. Nobody's perfect.

Click on this link to watch a video that discusses how to select a maid service.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Maintenance Cleaning

Most of our customers utilize our services at least once per month. If you schedule for your home to be cleaned at once per month, you're getting what we call a "maintenance cleaning". Many of our customers have asked that we better explain exactly what should be expected in a maintenance cleaning. So here goes.....

There are two phases to a maintenance cleaning. The first phase is to clean certain areas that are expected to be cleaned each and every time. These areas typically include bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchen, appliances, and floors. We also should be dusting all horizontal surfaces such as counters, tables, and fan blades each time. Finally, we should be emptying all garbage cans within your home. The second phase is to conduct an inspection throughout the house of certain areas. These areas are mainly comprised of your vertical surfaces such as interior windows/blinds, baseboards, trim work, cabinets/drawers, and picture frames on walls. In addition, we should also be inspecting your light fixtures to see if they are dirty. Of course, if we find that any of these areas are dirty; we clean them.

A maintenance cleaning is not a deep cleaning. A deep cleaning is much more detailed and thorough. It's a better cleaning because we get rid of the inspection and just clean everything in your home. Of course, it's much more expensive as well. But the maintenance cleaning can be very effective as long as regular service is conducted at your home. If service is interrupted, then our maintenance cleanings become ineffective because our inspection phase should be replaced with a cleaning phase. Because more of your vertical surfaces are dirty.

There you have it. That's how we clean your home if you hire us for weekly, biweekly, or monthly cleaning service.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Winning The Game Of Business

A lady who runs another cleaning service called me the other day. She was confused, unhappy, frustrated, and depressed.

It was obvious that she had just about given up on her business. She was pleading with me for answers. Her problems were two-fold. She couldn't get customers. And she couldn't keep employees.

Now she didn't phrase her questions in this manner. But that's what it boiled down to. So I gave her my best advice. You can't deliver a great service without making your employees happy first. Your marketing generates contacts. Your cleaning generates customer loyalty.

So step 1 is to make your employees happy. Some say that you should pay them more money. Some say that you should pat them on the back more often. Some say that you should do both. I say that you really only need to figure out one thing. How can you make your employees feel like they are part of the business? For Two Maids & A Mop, it's our pay for performance program and our profit sharing program. There is no one right answer. But there is one wrong answer.

You can't expect your employees to succeed if all you do is pay them to work. Working worked a long time ago. Working together works today.

So what's step 2. That's simple. After you've made your employees happy, start delivering a better service than your competitors. Amazon sells the same books as Barnes & Nobles. But in a different way. A better way.

I've always said that if it weren't for customers and employees then this job would be easy. But easy is for losers. This job is hard. Face the facts. Winning shouldn't be easy anyway.