Do You Charge More for First Cleaning?

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Question: Whether you clean commercial or residential – do you charge more for the first cleaning? (via LinkedIn)

Some of the things I suggest you take into consideration are:

What is the anticipated “long term” value of this account? You can arrive at this a number of ways:

  • based on historical data
  • taking into account whether or not you have a contract
  • are you likely to get other facilities or services from this client in the future
  • are they a good source of potential referral in the future, etc…

How much “extra” is involved in the initial cleaning? Use the margin calculator below to know what the true cost is to you before deciding how much (if any) you want to give away

Decide in advance what your gift “margin” would be. So, for example: let’s say you decided you want to “gift” 1% of the account value on an annual basis. You calculate this in “General and Administrative” just like any other cost of doing business (advertising, etc.) on my balance sheet. So, if the account pays $1000 per month and I keep it for one year, you’ve made $12,000. If you’ve decided on the 1% margin this means you have $120 to “gift” this client each year. You might also base the percentage on the account’s profit margin rather than the gross revenues.

Will the decision to charge (or not) extra for the first cleaning have an impact on whether or not you get the account? This is actually a more difficult question than it appears to be at first because we may be tempted to say; “No, don’t charge extra, make sure you get the account”. However, the flip side of that coin is, do you want to encourage “bargain seeking” behavior in your clients? Will you be happy servicing a client how only chose you because you were willing to give them free extras? A hard call to make in this tight economy, and one that cleaning business owners will have to make on a case-by-case basis.

And, if I do decide I want to give this “initial“ cleaning as a gift, I always make sure my client understands that I am doing so. I do this by including it on the bill and then adding “Complimentary” so they can see the exact dollar value of what they have been given. Sometimes people don’t appreciate what they don’t pay for so it’s helpful to at least make sure they’re aware of the gift.

Here are a few other thoughts about gifts for clients…..

What will have the highest “perceived” value to my customer? Now, based on what I know about this customer would she more appreciate a free window cleaning or tickets to a show and dinner gift certificate? Sometimes, when you give away your service, that tends to de-value it, so it might be better to give something with a higher perceived value and that feels more like a real “treat”. My clients have responded well to things like a high-end fruit (Harry and David) or Edible Arrangements, floral and plant deliveries, etc. Even a hand written thank you note goes a long way towards letting your client know how much you value them, especially if it’s done “out of the blue” instead of a traditional greeting card near the holidays.

Will this help me to I consolidate my relationship? When you “gift” your clients with things like small tokens and theater tickets, it’s because you know them and you know what they like. This puts you a step ahead of the “so called’ competition out there who may be calling every 6 months trying to get an opportunity to bid, but doesn’t have the “know, like and trust” factor working in their favor. It may be better to wait until you know the client a bit better and can gift something other than your service.

I think we’re on the right track in wanting our customers to feel appreciated, and retaining happy long term clients (especially the profitable ones) is so much easier than having to constantly recruit new clients. Of course, even more important than free cleaning, gifts or anything else – good service and value are still the keys to building and growing your cleaning business in record time!

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