Damage control is a need-to-master skill for all house cleaners, janitors and maids. If you are in business more than a day, you will run into situations that require your creativity, ingenuity and humility in order to keep the customer.
Here’s an example, a home owner (Mrs. Ruben) hires a new house cleaner (we’ll call the house cleaner Anna) and says “It only takes 4 hours to clean my 6,000 square foot house and I’ll only pay for 4 hours’ worth of service.” Anna is charging by the hour, and takes the job. She works her butt off for 4 hours only to clean half the house. Mrs. Ruben is ticked off and doesn’t want to pay for the job because It’s only half finished.
Anna is confused at how the previous house cleaner was able to do all three floors in 4 hours when Mrs. Ruben finally confesses that the previous house cleaner wasn’t a solitary maid, but a service of 3 house cleaners who came for 4 hours. (So 12 hours work [3 maids working for 4 hours] to clean this very messy house.)
Mrs. Ruben isn’t willing to pay for additional time or help to clean her whole house.
Anna doesn’t have enough experience to know that cleaning a 6,000 square foot home most likely can’t be cleaned thoroughly by one person in 4 hours. At best, she’ll be flying through the house, cleaning like a mad woman, probably skipping stuff and because of her speed, and will bump something and break it. (Which she will have to pay for out of her earnings.)
- Anna needs to have a no B.S. conversation with Mrs. Ruben about setting realistic expectations for the time it will take to clean her house.
- Anna needs to schedule additional cleaning day(s) to clean Mrs. Ruben’s home.
- Anna needs to be paid for the additional days it will take to match the work of 3 house cleaners vs. 1
- Anna and Mrs. Ruben could collectively agree which chores could be rotated between cleanings.
- Mrs. Ruben could agree to do the daily chores and leave weekly chores for Anna.
Damage control doesn’t always mean keeping the client
Sometimes in a damage control situation you have to let a customer go – and if you do, it needs to be done with care.
On your way out the door, a disgruntled client could accuse you of stealing something and warp your reputation.
Or they could go on the very social media channels where your other clients are recommending you with glowing referrals, and can bash you, your reputation, and your work ethic.
So if you have to let a customer go in an Anna type situation (and there are so many different scenarios of damage control that require different phraseology, creativity and diplomacy,) do it swiftly, with confidence and humility.
If no agreements or arrangements can be made between Mrs. Ruben and Anna, Anna needs to walk away. Right now. At the end of her first cleaning. Don’t drag it out and mysteriously think things will get better on the next cleaning – they won’t. If there is an unresolved misunderstanding now, I promise there will be an unresolved misunderstanding when you come back, and more to follow in the future.
So what is the word track you use for damage control when you ask for the money you’ve earned – and let Mrs. Ruben know you will not be returning?
Everyone is different – and I recommend using your own personality and words to have this conversation. I recommend you take a few minutes to write your own word track, think about your core values. Consider the boundaries you want to create with your clients – especially knowing that the Mrs. Ruben’s of your business will talk about you behind your back to their friends and neighbors (who may also be your clients.)
Think about how the client will feel when you discontinue service because they have been unrealistic. Will they become nasty and mean or volatile?
Damage Control Journal
Once you’ve bumped into an ugly situation like the one between Mrs. Ruben and Anna, go home and type out a debriefing on what just happened. Write down what went wrong and what you would do differently for next time. Here are 13 things I write down in a damage control debriefing.
This exercise will take a few minutes of your time. But it will cause you much more than a few minutes of stress if you don’t do it. Please learn from the situations that are uncomfortable in your business. These are the moments that will make you great.