Commercial cleaning is a highly competitive industry with customers being wooed by new suitors offering discounted costs or exclusive promotions on a daily basis.
In a sector where margins are already tight, customer retention is crucial for growth. So how do you ensure your existing customers stay with you through for better, for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness, and in health, until… well, you get the gist?
MAKE A DATE
Let’s be clear here, I’m not suggesting you pull out the stops for a romantic candlelit dinner (awkward!). However, to understand your customer’s business and their ongoing challenges, you must meet on a regular basis.
It doesn’t have to be long drawn out meetings – “little and often” is a good mantra to adopt. Coffee or a bite of lunch outside the office is great way to meet your customer.
Remember, he or she is a human being and not a business robot. The conversation should be wide ranging and genuine (some of my best meetings rarely touched on business).
This one should be a no-brainer, but listen to your customer. Ask them about their business and pay attention to their response. Even when they aren’t talking specifically about cleaning your customer will subconsciously give hints about opportunities for you to cement your relationship.
One of the best ways you can add value to your customer is to connect them with another organisation who can solve an underlying problem or fulfil an aspiration not related to your service. It’s not always about making a sale, it’s about being there and understanding their needs.
Don’t be afraid to get specific either. Engage them in conversation about the service you are providing and learn what is most important to them – what three things cause them the most stress?
These could be easily fixed and make a world of difference to your customer. For example, you could offer to change cleaning schedules to better accommodate shift patterns, use a backpack vacuum to reduce H&S risks on stairwells, or you could even implement new app technology to provide real-time reports on quality, H&S and training (cough cough). Ultimately, show them you genuinely care.
PARTNERS FOR LIFE
Like any good marriage, things won’t be perfect all the time – every so often someone will leave their washing on the floor or forget to pick up milk on their way home from work (that reminds me… Milk!).
The point is, when you’ve invested time with someone and earned their trust they are much more likely to throw you some slack when something doesn’t go quite to plan. It’s much better to have a solid working relationship with your customer where they speak to you about the problem and you have the chance to resolve it.
Fail to establish that relationship at the outset, and someone else with a glossy flyer and promotional discount might just sweep them out from under your nose before you can say “Make Life Easy”.