The key to a successful cleaning business is finding what makes your business different from your competition and exploiting that to your advantage. Every business is unique, whether they know it or not. Some try to pretend to be something they are not, and some just try to be like everyone else.
To set your cleaning business apart from the competition, follow these 7 easy steps:
- Provide value
- Exceptional customer service
- Invest in employees
- Find a niche
- Utilize technology
- Develop a strong brand
- Market your uniqueness
1. Provide Value
The easiest and least productive way to differentiate your business from the competition is to price yourself below everyone else. Too many companies fall into this trap because they think that if they are $5 below everyone else, everyone will want their service to save a quick buck.
Good value will always beat a cheap price.
If you are a new cleaning business and don’t have many customers or reviews, it might be difficult to convince your potential customers that you offer great value. To combat this, you can market an introductory offer.
The introductory offer gives your customer one-time cost savings and gets you a foot in the door. Make sure that this offer is irresistible for the client, you may not be making a lot on the first cleaning, but it will pay off over and over with repeat business.
Another way to provide value is to offer a guarantee so your customer has peace of mind, knowing that you stand behind your service.
This guarantee can come in these forms:
- Money-back guarantee
- Satisfaction guarantee
- Service guarantee (if the service wasn’t performed properly, you will do it again free of charge)
This is a simple way to build trust with clients, and it usually doesn’t cost you anything. If you or an employee are consistently getting complaints and customers are using that guarantee, there is probably something about your service that needs to be addressed.
Every now and then you will get a customer who takes advantage of the guarantee just to save some money, but these are typically few and far between. If this does happen, adhere to the terms of your guarantee and move on to the next customer.
2. Exceptional customer service
Customer service is another huge differentiating factor between cleaning businesses. There are a couple of simple measures to take to provide excellent customer service for your client.
If someone calls for service and you don’t answer, they are going to move on to the competition. If a customer has a complaint and you don’t answer, they might leave a bad review on Google.
Answering calls and responding quickly to customers is a huge factor in how customers perceive how well-run your business is.
Set up your phone system to forward calls to other employees when you aren’t available. You can do this with software such as Grasshopper.
If you’re a sole proprietor and having trouble keeping up with calls, you might want to set up an answering service. This isn’t an ideal option because it gets forwarded to a call center, but it’s better than an ignored customer.
Having systems in place for quality control ensures that the service you are providing is consistent day-to-day, customer-to-customer, and employee-to-employee.
This can be done with something as simple as a checklist. You have the option to leave this with your customer to show them everything you’ve done or to keep it for your own records and customer complaints.
Dealing with unsatisfied customers is an inevitable part of running a cleaning business. When you have a customer complaint or bad review, make sure you:
- Respond immediately
- Direct the customer to the highest level employee available
- Do whatever it takes to resolve the issue
Communicate and be human
Cleaning companies can get caught up trying to be professional or just getting the job done. Don’t forget that your clients are people too and appreciate a friendly human touch.
If your customers are home when you are cleaning, be friendly but not overbearing. If they want to talk with you, keep the conversation going but make sure it’s not affecting the quality or speediness of your cleaning service.
3. Invest in employees
Your employees are the face of your company and the ones that will be interacting with your customers on a day-to-day basis. Make sure you take your time to choose the right employee, train them well, and take care of them in order for them to represent your company well.
Choosing the right employee
You aren’t going to choose the best employee every time, but there are a couple of steps you can take to increase the odds of findinging the right one.
Implement a system for your interview and hiring process. This takes out some of the guesswork of weeding through potential candidates to find your perfect employee. Develop some interview questions that help you understand the person’s personality and work ethic.
Performing background checks is another step you can take to ensure that a candidate wasn’t just putting on a friendly face and answering interview questions based on how they think you would like them to be answered. This is also something that you can market to give your customers peace of mind: knowing they have responsible employees cleaning their home.
Training is something that often gets overlooked because owners feel that once an employee knows the basics of cleaning they are ready to go out on their own. Performing a more thorough training costs more of your time upfront, but will help retain employees and keep customers happy, which will save you a lot more down the road.
Some areas where your employees need to be trained:
- Customer service/interaction
- Professional appearance
- Phone manners
Aside from having well-trained employees, spending time with them helps you get to know them better. This is beneficial for identifying problem areas that need to be monitored, but also helps you and your new employee bond, which will hopefully create loyalty and a long-term relationship.
Take care of your employees
In general, ½ of your employees will be average/good employees, ¼ will be below average, and ¼ will be the superstars of your cleaning company.
You should respect all of your employees and give them a chance to succeed, but don’t use all of your time and resources trying to take a below-average employee to superstar status.
For your good and superstar employees, make sure you are keeping them happy and excited to be working for your company.
Treat them with respect
This one is so easy to do but so many companies forget to do it. Treat your employees how you would like to be treated and everything else becomes a little bit easier. Ask them about how things are going, how their day went, and if there is anything you can help them out with.
A key to having your employees feel well respected is to not micromanage them. You still need to monitor them to make sure they are completing the job in a satisfactory manner, but if you’ve hired the right people and trained them well, this shouldn’t be a concern.
If an employee doesn’t show up for work half the time and when they do they don’t perform, eventually you will have to let that employee go.
If an employee shows up every day, has a positive attitude, and goes above and beyond their job description, reward them.
Financial rewards make everyone happier, but verbally recognizing their commitment and complimenting them on their hard work goes a long way as well.
Providing your employees with the right tools for the job makes their life a lot easier and helps them get the job done right. Check-in with them from time to time to see if they need anything changed or any new pieces of equipment.
4. Find a niche
When you try to service every customer, not only are you spreading yourself too thin, you are competing with every other cleaning service out there.
Finding a niche helps you identify which market you are most suited for and which one will be most profitable. Once you find your niche you will have a competitive advantage and will be able to charge more for your services.
5. Utilize technology
Being on the cutting edge of technology helps your business run more efficiently and gives your business a “cool” factor that will wow your customers. Some great ways to use technology are:
Streamline business tasks
There are endless apps and software out there that can expedite your billing, accounting, payroll, and other business tasks.
You can also use software such as TSheets to track your employee’s hours. Labor is your largest expense so keeping a close eye on hours worked is crucial for the health of your business.
Improve customer service
Technology helps you stay in touch with your customers in a number of ways and keeps them up to date on your business.
Instead of having a paper checklist, you can supply your employees with tablets that they can then send to the customer via email.
You can also use apps or text messages to let your customer know when you are on your way and when the job is complete.
If you don’t have an online presence, you are missing out on potential customers and profit. Make sure you at least have a social media account and website. If you want to go a step further you can do things such as SEO (search engine optimization), email marketing, and even developing an app.
6. Develop a strong brand
Having a memorable and recognizable brand sets you apart from the competition and is the gift that keeps on giving. If you develop your brand right, potential customers will think of your company first when they are in need of a cleaning service.
Some tips for creating a strong brand:
- Be consistent across all platforms
- Have a simple, memorable logo and name
- Invest in professional-looking marketing materials
7. Market your uniqueness
You have worked hard to separate yourself from the competition, now it’s time to let people know about it! Don’t be afraid to include the special parts of your business in your marketing material. Include things such as:
- Customer service
- Employee selection and training
- Unique technology
- Special services
If you are marketing the things that set you apart from the competition, make sure you are following through and making good on your promises.
I am really bad with technology, how can I keep my business up to date?
You can also search for a local freelancer to help get you started and teach you some of the basics.
If there is a local university, they might have a technology program with students looking for an internship as well.
I am the only employee and do everything for my business. What can I market about my business that is unique?
If you do everything for your business, you can market that! Some people are looking for a personalized experience working with the owner of the company, rather than an employee.
People also respect and want to help out local entrepreneurs, so let them know who you are and that you are a part of the community.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Nothing sets you apart more than a strong foundation. Check out our cleaning business startup documents here.