CHAPTER 15-: This is the fifteenth chapter of “The Complete Guide to Starting a Cleaning Business.” One of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced entrepreneurs make in the cleaning industry is that they focus solely on client hunting. The importance of finding new clients cannot be stressed enough, especially when it comes to running a cleaning service business.
However, there is something else that you need to pay more attention to if you want to sustain the success of your business. This particular aspect of running a business is often not covered in your regular crash marketing courses, and therefore it escapes the attention of the novice entrepreneurs. If you do not want to end up making the same mistakes that they do, and end up incurring massive losses like them, then you should acquaint yourself with client retention strategies even before you open the doors to your cleaning service business.
What is Client Retention?
As the name suggests, client retention is all about retaining the clients or getting old clients to come back over and over again. Client retention endeavours play a monumental role in shaping the growth of your business. Depending on your business philosophy and marketing tactics, client retention could be as important as client hunting or perhaps even more significant. More often than not, the two are of equal importance, and therefore entrepreneurs are required to divide their resources in equal halves to make sure they keep both the boats afloat. In lieu of enticing new clients, you do not want to let go of your older clients. As the saying goes, old is gold, and this could not have been truer for cleaning service businesses.
Before you can start devising client retention strategies, you need to first wrap your head around the various advantages of client retention. Without getting into the technicalities, you should ask yourself why is it good to have old clients return to your business.
Why You Must Make Client Retention a Top Priority for your Cleaning Business
a. Returning Customers Provide You With a Sense of Security and Assurance
If you are a person who has an uncomplicated way of thinking, then you would answer that question with the word “assurance”. Seeing old customers return to your business time and again provides you with assurance that you can never attain during client hunting. Hunting new clients and looking for more profitable customers is always an exciting prospect. However, it is one that is deeply associated with apprehension, insecurity and uncertainty. No matter how good your marketing team is, and how catchy your advertisements maybe, you can never say for sure whether you have what it takes to bring in a truck load of customers on any given day.
During client hunts, you are constantly working and negotiating with variables that you have little to no control over. This is hardly the case with client retention, where your ability to appease customers will decide how likely you are to draw the clients back to your business after the first visit. Seeing the old faces turn up to your workplace for another new assignment boosts your morale and instills self belief in your as an entrepreneur. Even though hunting new clients can be more thrilling and at times more gratifying, dealing with your old customers who have put their faith in you on a number of occasions, gives you a sense of unmatched satisfaction and rekindles your motivation as an aspiring entrepreneur of the future.
b. Client Retention is the Ultimate Key to Business Survival
If you want your cleaning service business to survive in this fickle world of consumerism, then you must invest your time, money and energy into devising fail proof customer retention strategies. Back in the day, people in a neighbourhood only had one or at best two cleaning service companies to resort to when they needed to get their homes or offices cleaned. Nowadays, with increased mobility of businesses and globalization, people have a wide variety of options to choose from, and hence they will have no problem whatsoever in cutting off their connections with you as soon as you fail to deliver up to their expectations.
You can go on and complain endlessly about how it is an unfair world for entrepreneurs, and how people should give businesses second chances, but your righteous whining will not get those customers back at your doorstep. You need to be smart and act quickly to ensure that people who knock on your door once, keep turning up whenever they need their homes or offices cleaned. Do not just be a random option for people who need cleaning. Instead, become their first choice and topmost priority. This is how you can push your business upwards towards the echelon of prosperity and affluence.
c. Small Returning Customers Can Refer You to Big Paying Clients
One of the rookie mistakes made by the newbie entrepreneurs is that they fail to realize the great value and potential in each and every single customer who turns up. The customer who signs a simple contract for a one time home cleaning service may not be much of a hotshot money maker for your company in the initial stages. However, if you keep the customer interested in coming back to you, then the customer may just turn out to be the golden jackpot that you have been longing to hit for so long.
What seemed like an ordinary home dweller may turn out to be an influential figure in a multi-million dollar corporation, and the next thing you know, the customer who had asked you to clean his house for a day, is now offering you a contract to clean a major commercial complex for the next three years. This goes to show you that you can never know when a customer can turn out to be a complete game changer for your company. This is why it is never appropriate or wise to neglect a customer simply because the client did not sign a contract worth a lot of money.
Sometimes, these small customers can have a negative impact on your business as well if you leave them displeased with your cleaning service. What if the customer turns out to be a prominent social figure in the neighbourhood where you are running your operations, and because of one bad day at work, the customer writes a horrible review about your company on the local newspaper. This is a recipe for disaster, and will surely lead your company to go out of business. As a result, you can under no circumstances overlook the importance of each individual customer. Do your best to get them on your team and keep coming back for more services.
d. Recurring Customers Can Keep your Business Afloat During Economic Downturns
You also need to bear in mind the fact that the economy can slump at any moment in time. During these depressing days, you will find it near to impossible to hunt new clients who would be interested to pay the fees for your janitors or carpet cleaners. The only way to keep your neck above water in such distressful times is to count on your old customers to endow you with new assignments, deals and contracts. In those times, old customers will become vital to the existence of your business.
Now that you have a clear idea of why you should pull your old customers back into doing business with you, it is time you learned a thing or two about client retention strategies. Now these require no less creativity and innovative skills than formulating marketing strategies. It is perhaps more difficult to find the perfect way to bring back old customers than to come up with tactics to attract new clients, especially in a booming economy.
4 Kick-Ass Client Retention Strategies for your Cleaning Business
1. Stand Out from the Crowd, Stand Up for Something
If you want your customers to come back to you, the first thing you need to do is make sure that you stand for something. When you stand for something that has great meaning, it helps you develop a relationship with the customer. If the customer does not have a strong bond with the business that it is spending its money on, then it will lose the desire and the interest to stay attached with the business, and will perhaps move on to another cleaning company that offers a little bit more than just quality services. Getting your cleaning services spot on is just the basic requirement of owning a cleaning business. If you want to set yourself apart from the rest and make your company appear unique in front of your old customers, then you need to go the extra mile and let the customers know exactly why they should care for you.
2. Never Bruise your Client’s Ego
The second thing that you need to take into consideration when coming up with client retention strategies is the inner ego of the customers. Let’s face the fact, people only usually buy those things or subscribe to those services which resemble them in one way or the other. Now this inner ego is much easier to exploit if you are selling personalized goods such as clothes, but when it comes to running a cleaning service company, relating your service to the customer can be a much steeper challenge. You need to determine who your target audience is, and once they come knocking on your door, you need to find a way to make them understand that this business of yours is tailor made for them.
For example, if you are providing cleaning services to residential buildings and most of your customers are single mothers who want to maintain a safe, hygienic and clean environment for their young ones, then you can craft a brand message that appeals to these mothers and compels them to resort to you every single time they want their precious houses cleaned. Make them feel that they are carrying out their responsibilities as a caring and dutiful mother by asking for your assistance in cleaning their house. That way, they will be bound to become your regular customers. Much like the client hunt strategies, client retention strategies are also heavily reliant on your ability to understand the psychology of your customers and tap into their inner thoughts and cravings.
3. You MUST Reward your Clients’ Loyalty
The next most important step into your client retention campaign is to channel resources towards rewarding customers for their loyalty. You need to provide your customers with certain benefits or rewards for coming back to you time and again. This is a great way of keeping their minds away from other companies who may try to lure them into taking their cleaning service options.
For instance, if you strike a 3 month deal with a small business for providing janitorial services to their commercial complex, then you can offer them a discount if they choose to stick with your for a further 3 months after the expiration of the current contract. It may seem to you that you are losing out on a considerable chunk of your profit by offering them a discount, but in reality what you are doing is making sure that you have a steady, profitable client for 6 months instead of the initial 3 that you had signed up for. If you do not want to reduce your prices, then you can perhaps offer them other kinds of rewards or benefits that have nothing to do with discounts.
For example, if you have a contract with a residential building, then you can choose to provide a brand new vacuum cleaner to all those customers who decide to renew their contract with you. In the grand scheme of things, the cost of distributing free vacuum cleaners will hardly put a dent on your finance as long as you can land those customers for the second consecutive term. Remember, it is always more important to create a steady influx of income rather than being stingy and cutting corners.
4. Develop a Personal Relationship With Clients of Your Cleaning Company
Since the cleaning business is highly service oriented, you have the added responsibility of teaching your cleaning staff and managers how to develop a personal relationship with the customers. In all the services that your company provides, there must be a personal touch intended to sweeten up the day for your old customers.
For example, make it mandatory for your managers to record the names of your first time customers and know them by their faces. This should be done so that your workers can at least identify the customers by name the next time they decide to show up in your office premises. It’s all about providing a personalized experience to your customers. This will help them build more trust and confidence in you. After all, who does not like to be recognized by a stranger?
If you are looking for a shortcut technique to master the art of client retention, then you need to first learn how to make your existing clients feel like VIPs. People desire special treatment. As long as you can provide them with that, your cleaning service business will surely stay relevant and appealing in the eyes of your current clients.