Have you ever been in a difficult conversation with a client that you desperately wish you could escape? We’ve all been there! A client cancels his cleaning for the 4th time in 3 months, an employee broke something at a client’s house, a prospect asks you to explain why you are charging so much... I’ve definitely faced many difficult scenarios like these and if you are reading this, chances are you have too. Words are a powerful thing and if used wisely, they have the ability to transform any potentially negative situation into a positive one.
Here are 3 steps to ensure you come off as calm, collected, and most importantly, professional.
Step 1: Wait before responding.
Simple as that. Take some time to collect yourself before calling them (or emailing if the situation isn’t super serious). Think about it from all angles and try to understand why the other party is so upset. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would want a company to respond to you if the situation were reversed. If it is a phone call and you can feel yourself getting worked up, tell them that you would hate to have the conversation without knowing all the facts or without being prepared and you will call them back soon so that you can resolve the issue.
Step 2: Remove emotion from the equation.
Remember that as a business owner, you will never be able to satisfy every single customer 100%. Accept and prepare yourself for the eventuality that bad reviews are going to happen and some customers are going to be upset over something completely unnecessary. It is difficult to not take complaints or negative feedback as a personal attack, but they never are. Ever had a bad day and unintentionally snapped at someone that didn’t really deserve it? Just pretend that you were the unsuspecting victim of someone’s bad day and remove all the emotion from the situation so that you can approach the conversation with a clear head. People can feel the energy you emit, and if you are frustrated or upset, chances are, it will only escalate the situation.
Step 3: Respond professionally.
It sounds easy, but for many people, this can prove to be more difficult than it should be. Clients want to feel like you value them as customers and that you take your business as seriously as they take paying you for it. NEVER have a difficult conversation via text or FB message. Pick up the phone and call them. Tone cannot be told over text and even if you have crafted a sincere response, remember, they are expecting a difficult conversation as well. That means that chances are, they will expect you to be in defense mode and will most likely take something the wrong way which can only escalate the situation. Be prepared before you talk to them so that you are ready with a professional response no matter what angle they come at you from.
If you can master those 3 steps, then great! You are going to be miles ahead of a lot of others. If you still feel like you might need some good go-to responses to help keep you zen when dealing with tough convos, here are some common scenarios that I’ve seen across the board and professional responses to help you get started!
A client’s home has become increasingly dirtier and you need to raise their rates to cover the extra time.
“Just wanted to touch base with you about our services going forward. We have loved cleaning for you so far and have actually been spending a bit longer than usual in your home these past couple months to make sure everything was done and up to our standard. We are thrilled you got that new puppy (had that new baby, got that new job) however, as a result, we have really struggled to get everything done in the time it used to take. Going forward, in order to make sure we aren’t forced to skip anything due to time constraint and to continue to make your home sparkle, your new service price will be $XXX. Thank you for understanding and we look forward to making your home sparkle for years to come!”
You want to drop a client that you really like, but the distance (or other reason) just doesn’t work with your schedule anymore.
“I am so sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but due to scheduling conflicts coupled with the distance, I won't be able to clean for you anymore. I have absolutely loved cleaning for you, but just can't make it work with the distance. I have an awesome referral for you that is much closer and I hope you understand!”
You want to drop a client because they complain about the tiniest things and are never happy.
“I absolutely love making homes sparkle and that is why I went into this business. I never want any of my clients to feel unsatisfied and I just don’t think we are a good fit for you. I would hate to disappoint anyone and would much rather you be 100% satisfied, so I am going to give you the name of someone that has a bit of a different approach that might work better for you and I truly wish you the absolute best.”
Your employee broke something and the client wasn’t home when it happened.
“Hi Judy, I was just calling you to let you know that there was a slight incident during your clean today. While we try our absolute best to be careful, sometimes accidents happen in this line of work, and unfortunately, Linda accidentally knocked over one of your glass unicorns when she was moving the vase to dust underneath it. I am so so sorry and I just wanted to let you know and offer to repair or replace it if the value is under $100. If it is worth more than that, then I would be happy to file a claim with our insurance company so we can get that taken care of for you as soon as possible. I hope you will forgive us and let us continue to make your home sparkle!”
You give a quote and they audibly gasp at your estimate and demand to know why you think you can charge that much!
“I appreciate your honesty and feedback. As a company, we have many operating costs including insurance and a competitive salary for our employees so that we can guarantee every home is protected, and ensure consistency in cleaners. We actually charge the industry standard and I would encourage you to call around and get some estimates from other reputable companies. You may be looking for more of a personal housekeeper instead of a company. They do charge much less but would require you to file a 1099 at the end of the year for them and typically aren’t licensed, insured or bonded. Hiring someone to clean your home is a very personal business, so I encourage you to do some research, shop around, and if you do decide to give us a try, we would be happy to show you what we can do!”
Your employees did not do a good job and missed a ton of stuff. The client is upset and wants a refund.
“Thank you so much for your feedback. I truly value it as it is how I can coach my techs to consistently improve over time. I understand there were quite a few things missed in your home today, and that is absolutely not our standard. Occasionally, in this line of work, it does happen, which is why we have our 100% happiness guarantee. We are going to make sure you are satisfied, without a doubt, and can be back at your home tomorrow at 9 am to take care of the things that were missed. Thank you so much for understanding and please always let us know if there is anything we could be doing better!”
Your client cancels last minute constantly, despite consistent reminders of your cancellation policy.
“Hi Jim, thank you so much for allowing us to clean for you these past few years. We have noticed an increase in last minute cancellations, and while I completely understand that sometimes things come up that are unavoidable, it makes it very difficult to operate my business when it happens too often. With notice, I am usually able to fill the empty slot so that my cleaners aren’t out of work, but it’s very difficult to do last minute. I haven’t charged you any cancellation fees thus far because I really do try to avoid that since I know clients can’t always help it, but going forward, any cancellations made within 48 hours of your cleaning will be charged at half price so that I may continue to provide my employees with expected wages and keep consistent cleaners in your home. Thank you so much for understanding!”
You arrive at a cleaning only to discover it is not at all what was described and there is no way you are going to get it done in your estimated time. You may need two to three times as long.
“Thank you so much for allowing us into your home so that we can help take some of the stress of cleaning off of your shoulders! It’s always a little tough to judge the scope of a job over the phone, and while most of the time, we get it right, sometimes certain homes need more time than estimated. During our initial phone call, I promised to let you know if it was going to take more time, and now that we are here in person, I am certain we will need at least twice as much time to make sure we get it to our standard of clean. I had no clue you had so many beautiful glass unicorns and I would, of course, make sure all of these prized possessions are dust free for you so that you can breathe easier and go to sleep happy tonight. So, I just want to get your approval before starting anything that this job is going to be approximately $XXX to get it sparkling from top to bottom.” (If they seem shocked, tell them that you have another suggestion and that would be to knock half of it out now, and half on a second visit)
You underbid a job but don’t realize it until you are towards the end of the estimated time and realize you are going to need a couple more labor hours.
“Hi Kim, I just wanted to touch base about our progress in your beautiful home. We have completed X,Y,Z and are fast approaching the estimated time of completion. We did need some extra time on the blinds due to the buildup and the shower door for the same reason, and as a result, in order to get everything done for you, we would need to add some additional time here at the end. The cost would be $80 to finish everything up for you so I just wanted to get your approval before proceeding.” (If they seem shocked, say “no problem, we can stay within your original estimate and leave at the previously estimated time. If you would like us to come back and finish, I know I have a couple of spots next week open and would be happy to fit you in!”) At that point, they will probably approve the time.
You want to switch over to only taking credit or debit cards but are afraid of pushback. The main thing that will help you succeed here is CONFIDENCE. Do not feel strange about asking someone for their card information over the phone. People give that out to an 18-year-old working at Pizza Hut with zero hesitation. They have already shown that they trust you enough to allow you to come into their most private space.
For new clients:
“Ok Mrs. Smith, your estimate for your cleaning is $350. I can’t wait to get your home in tip-top shape! I’ll just need your card info on file and we can confirm your booking.”
For those current customers that you want to switch over:
“Thank you so much for being such an amazing client of ours for so long. It’s because of loyal clients like you that we have been able to grow as a company and implement some more professional and safer payment practices. Our cleaning techs will no longer be accepting cash or check as a safety measure for you and them. We now accept debit or credit cards so if you could please let me know which one works for you, I can get you switched over in our system.”