Dealing with ornery customers when you have multiple crews

This has somewhat become an issue for me as of late. Ornery customers!
Just to give you a back ground of my company.
Ben around 3 1/2 years. We do on average around 45-50 homes a week. Currently I have a number of crew leaders and they are all really good with customers and I’ve received numerous letters, and calls saying how good that they were in terms of cleaning the windows and cleaning up after themselves.

I constantly work with them on customer service making sure that the customers are taking care of. There is always follow up and quick response for touch ups. But this doesn’t always cut the cake with certain customers. Some I can see coming but others…I’m blindsided. This happened on average about 1 a month since August.

What exactly happens? Well the windows weren’t clean enough or sills or something wasn’t clean up right. I’ve had my main guy come out and deal with the customer with no avail. I’ve even dealt with the customers afterwards and personally saw to it and tried doing what they asks. Still to no avail! Even when its the cleaned window or sill I’ve ever cleaned.
I’ve learned that some of this people may have ocd or perhaps have germphobia. I sometimes concede and give them their money back or send them a large discount…with an apology(especially if they are with angies list).

I do know this will happen more and more as a gain more customers. We deal with high-end residential customers and ornery comes with the territory.

I’m not really asking for a solution. This is not something I plan on loosing sleep over…its not worth it but its something I wanted to keep an eye out because gossip about bad service spreads quickly.

Basically I just wanted to ask below two things.

  1. I wonder if those of you that have crews of four or more deal with this often.
  2. If you do deal with this…what do you or your staff do?

There’s some people that you won’t be able to make happy…

Your post reminds me of one of my friends recent post on a pressure washing forum I belong too… check out the pictures he posted…

One complaint a month out of 200 homes when you have employee’s (I’d say even if you did them yourself, too) isn’t a bad track record. I think I’d have to buy the employee’s a big steak dinner. They’d have to share though.

You’ve just given me the nightmare scenario for taking on employees. How can I ever follow Kevin’s plan if this is going to happen! If that happened here it would close down my business within the month.

Im not sure it would Karl… Its just a fact of doing this volume of business.

  1. I wonder if those of you that have crews of four or more deal with this often.

Yes it happens to us about once a month, but that’s really not that bad when you consider the volume of work we do. Its like a fraction of a percent.

  1. If you do deal with this…what do you or your staff do?

a) Lay out what your service entails prior to starting the job. Set the expectation of exactly what will occur on site.

b) Nobody leaves the job site until everyone’s happy.

c) When your guys arrive on site the lead dude walks around with the customer and explains everything that’s going to happen

d) write the bill out of whats to be done and how much its going to cost, the customer must sign off on it before the guys start

e) At the bottom of your double sided carbon copy invoice have 2 boxes with the room for the following check boxes
Crew Leader[/B]

[]Glass Streak free
]Area left neat and clean


] Screens
[] Glass Streak free
] Area left neat and clean
When the crew leader is done he walks around inspects and checks off everything he has inspected. Then signs. Yes we actually make them put little checks next to each item and actually sign it. Putting the signature may seen small but it makes them own the situation.

The customer then must do the same, check and sign everything.

This will virtually eliminate problem customers.

The biggest confusion we have had in the past is / was accurately describing our level and or version idea of clean [B]VS[/B] the customers version idea of clean. Once everyone is on the same page, it eliminates a lot of problems.

[B]Example:[/B] When talking about screens we say " We wipe the sills free of loose dirt and debris, we do not use vacuum cleaners, tooth picks or any special cleaners on the sills. We simply wipe away any loose debris"

I hope this helps!

I see your point with the volume - but what worries me is the nature of some employees. We know that sometimes/all the time they don’t listen. When I was doing that wagtail video there was a $500,000 Bentley next to me (hence the reason I was so close to the glass), this is the sort of situation I am worried about.

Its another topic really, but even with guidelines spelled out clear as day, you know that sometimes they don’t follow them. This is such a small island I can’t afford for these things too happen.

Thanks Chris!
I feel better knowing that this is just a fact we are gonna get these kind of customers with volume work.
I do like your idea of having the carbon copy with the check off with the customer and also having them sign of explaining to them what we are going to do so we would all be on the same page.
Thanks man

You may also want to toss in a time frame when talking to the customer. Explain to them what your “Average time” on a window in/out should take x amount of time. I do not have a crew, but I do tell my customers that 10 minutes per window, in an out is more then enough time. If the window can’t be cleaned in 10 minutes then it past being cleaned. No amount of cleaning is going to make the window look any better.

Chris, you’re my hero!

Congratulations, Mr Kirk.

I also agree that complaint rates of less than one percentile are worth being proud of, and at the end of the day, unavoidable. Although I must admit that my “this-guy-sounds-like-a-goof-already” radar sensitivity becomes more acute with each passing year…and that Chris’ advice regarding a paper-trail of approval can help guilt even these problem-clients into better behavers, too.

I also believe Karl, that you are more than capable enough of hiring someone that has the qualities you need in a reliable, conscientious staff member, and that you can train for the rest.

[B]Hire for the hearts.[/B] Train the tech stuff. And don’t be afraid to steal people from their current jobs if they are the kind of person you’re looking for.